Brian’s Reflection: Sunday, April 21, 2013
[ The Forth Sunday of Easter in the Christian Kalendar ]
The works that I do in my Father's name testify to me;
but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.
My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.
No one will snatch them out of my hand.
What my Father has given me is greater than all else,
and no one can snatch it out of the Father's hand.
The Father and I are one."
- John 10 [The Gospel reading for Easter IV, Year C, RCL ]
[ The complete Readings for this Sunday can be found at:
Ultimately, who are “the sheep” who follow Jesus’s voice? Since I believe that Jesus is an authentic voice of the one Mystery that we call “God”, the answer to my question has to be “Everyone”. It has nothing to do with adherence to any particular institution. Jesus is a voice of Compassion, of Love (as well as of Justice, Kindness, Goodness) … and He is One with that Divine Voice. Along, I believe, with other such Great Voices in human history.
A friend of mine (whom I have never met in person … ah, the Internet!) raised the issue of the Boston alleged bombers, and of what can happen when ‘an "idea" is more important than bodies, their own or those of others’. Dualism … the separation of “body” and “spirit”. I’m not a great fan of all the various so-called heresies which have been propounded during the millennia … but I think that Dualism is a nasty piece of thinking. Not only are we a unity … but we are One with both God and every other human being at the most fundamental level.
Here is part of my response to him: “Jesus said, "Love your enemies" … which statement Joseph Campbell thought the most difficult three words in the Gospel … Is there a parallel, perhaps, in what these alleged perpetrators did in pursuit of their "vision" (if there was one) with what Bush/Cheney did in killing thousands of Iraquis and Afghanistanies, and torturing hundreds of people for the "American vision"?? I think so. Loving One Another, or our "enemies" … does not mean we have to like them or approve/accept their actions … but the Gospel says we are to love them … why? So that we don't diminish, first, our own humanity - as the Gospel sees the nature of our humanity - or theirs. It does not mean that murders can't be punished for vicious anti-social acts … it means we shouldn't do to them what we would not want done to ourselves.”
Politically, a very hard row to hoe!
I continued: “Jesus saying (in my interpretation) to His fellow Jews that every human being is to be a "sheep" of His that can/will hear His voice - the voice of compassion, of love, of sharing in the nature of the God of Love - and become one with God. The "World" is the "World" … and we have to live in it, yes, and it's not easy at times. But many wise people have pointed out that when we completely deny anyone's humanity, we have demeaned and lost ours. It seems to me that the World today is in a general state of whatever it is that leads us to demeaning each other's humanity. The value of persons (despite, in our case in America, our supposed value of the individual and individualism and individual freedom, which in America we seem these days to support only for those with whom we agree) has almost disappeared. Sad … and what Hell we create for each other. Hitler did it perfectly, in seeking the dominance of the Aryan race.
Balance (that quintessential Anglican virtue, until recently) is critical. Extremism very often leads to violence. And extremism has its roots in the failure to value the thoughts and personhood of others and in the misconception that we are not related to each other. But the bell tolls for all when it tolls for one. Jesus found His identity in His oneness with God his Father … and he clearly (to me) wanted us to find it with God and by definition with each other.
How long would it take to create understanding and Peace if we started now? No idea. But I hope we don't go on the way we're going, or the experiment of the human race may come to a short; brutal and ugly end. Sometimes I think I'd rather have that than what we have now … after death there is always resurrection!”
A challenging Easter message.
Goodness! So much to ponder on a quiet Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning in the high desert of New Mexico! But I think we would do well to do so as we ponder the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd of the Sheep.
(Pardon this unconscionable length! I’ve always been too verbose!)