Saturday, May 5, 2012

Blog # 243 - The Good Shepherd.

Blog # 243 - The Good Shepherd.

In each of the major seasons of the Church's liturgical year, one Sunday has as its theme the identity of Jesus as the Good shepherd. This past Sunday was that Sunday in the Season of Easter, 2012.

Toward the end of this month I will be celebrating my 58th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. In all of those years I celebrated 'Good Shepherd Sunday' with various congregations in several Glenmary Mission parishes and teaching assignments here in Georgia (at the very beginning of my ministry in 1954), out in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Indiana, St. Louis MO, Cincinnati, OH, Chicago, North Carolina, and now in retirement back in Georgia .

In all of those years, following the lead of the liturgical readings we used for Good Shepherd Sunday, in response to Jesus identifying Himself as The Good Shepherd, I would invite the people who were celebrating the Feast with me to refresh and renew our understanding and appreciation of the goodness and generosity of Jesus in the pattern of His entire life among us, and then in His unconditional total love for the Father signified and expressed throughout His life on earth, but particularly on Calvary. "There is no greater love than this", He had said, and we knew He was correct. He taught us God's love was worth this much to Him and invited us to follow Him and try to discover what God's love might be worth to us.

As the Good Shepherd Jesus was not motivated by self-interest, working 'for pay', but for love. He did not abandon us like a hired hand would do and run away from our 'enemy' which we labeled as sin, but rather He became the sacrificial Lamb of God who would take away every sin of all who would repent and trust in the infinite power won for us in His total love for the Father on Calvary, then in His Resurrection from the dead proving there could be no sin that had the power to conquer His love. In making our response to Jesus the Good Shepherd we listened once again each Good Shepherd Sunday and heard Him say "Do not be afraid. It is I". With joy praise and love we thanked the Father for sending Jesus, and Jesus for all that it meant to us to have Him by faith as our Good Shepherd.

In preparing a homily for last Sunday I read over , as I usually do, and reviewed past homilies and notes from years ago, some now getting to be from 28, 30, and 35 years ago. There was plenty of material for another homily and I was happy. But then an insight began to develop that almost seemed quite new to me this year. It had two parts to it, one having primarily to do with Jesus and one having primarily to do with me and all who are united to Jesus as members of the Church like branches on a living vine through faith and Baptism.

Here is the way the insight came to me: In the Incarnation of the Eternal Word , Jesus had to learn how to be God on earth SO THAT we in Him might learn to live forever and be divine.

In our efforts to grow in our understanding and appreciation of that insight it helps to recall that the Incarnation of the Word took place about two thousand years ago. Neither were people around Him nor was Jesus in the habit like we are of offering Mass each week and proclaiming, in the Nicene Creed, our faith in the humanity and divinity of the singular unique person referred to at times as the Word or at other times as Jesus. Our experience of human life here on earth and that of Jesus was infinitely different and yet exactly the same! Depending upon whether or not you understand what it actually means, that statement can be seen as a contradiction of the truth or as a wonderful and potentially fruitful insight into the truth involved in the identification of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

If physical scientists are correct in their calculation of the age of creation as extending back from the present to billions of light years ago, the Eternal Word, with the Father and the Spirit was there. We know this by force of our faith in the revelation of the equality of Father. Word, and Spirit in the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. The Word was given the name Jesus when the Word became incarnate in the womb of Mary.

From faith again we know Jesus was not a different person from the Word, but a single person, as Jesus and as the Word Incarnate. So truly was Jesus like us, human, in all things but sin, Jesus had to believe on the testimony of a witness He could trust, that Mary was His mother just as I have to believe Mary Hughes is my mother and you have to believe the person you know as your mother is actually so. Then later on as the carpenter's son if someone stole his hammer he did not snap his fingers to have a new one drop down from Heaven. He had to buy another as you and I would have to do.

So it was for Jesus when it came to sweeping the kitchen floor or playing a game of marbles with the other boys in his neighborhood, reading Aramaic, obeying the Commandments, prayer, and the experience of death.
How can we identify the relationship between this humanity of Jesus and His divinity as the Word?

Think of the case of a sighted person who desired to share the experience of those who are blind in order to understand their experience, and win their confidence in order to help them more effectively. He does not do anything to cause himself to be blind but he closes his eyes so that he cannot see and in that respect he might as well be blind. With the Word of God and Jesus, the Word did not cease to be the Word at the instant of the Incarnation but in the Father's design put aside His divine characteristics for a time and only in obedience to the Father's will 'open his eyes' or speak and act as God in performing miracles and testifying to His divinity by way of teaching and speaking not only in the name of God as other prophets had done but in speaking as God peresonally as for example when He identified Himself as equal to the Father, and united to the Father as one.

For about thirty years Jesus the Word was to live 'with His eyes closed' recognized as the carpenter's son, one of us, tired, hungry, kind and generous, trustworthy and prayerful, always doing the will of Him Who sent Him as we are called to do. Then even in the brief few years of His public ministry Jesus continued to live in such a way as we could recognize ourselves in Him.

All of creation is God's gift, an expression of God's love. In God's creation, God's love is majestic and awesome. In Jesus it is human as well. In Jesus our Shepherd it is warm and close. In it we are safe from all harm. 

In the Incarnation of the Eternal Word , Jesus learned how to be God on earth SO THAT... Hopefully we will take that up as we continue to reflect upon Jesus the Good Sheplherd,

No comments:

Post a Comment