OPEN CHURCH—ALL ARE CALLED TO THE SHEEPFOLD
“I have come that they may have life – life in abundance,” says Jesus, the Good Shepherd. He is the door to all. In the first reading, Peter defends his action of baptizing the pagan Cornelius on the same grounds: also pagans are called to accept the Gospel and the Holy Spirit comes down on them too, although apparently, the same Christians seem to have understood the case of Cornelius and his household as an exceptional instance. Is the Church – are we – open to accept all? What do we do to make this a reality? Remember, Jesus had come to bring life to all.
Lord our God, Father of all,
you sent your Son, Jesus Christ among us
to reveal to us that you care about people
and that your love extends to all,
without any distinction of race or culture.
Give us a great respect for all people,
whatever way they come,
and let your Church embrace all cultures,
that Jesus may truly be
the Lord and Shepherd of all,
now and forever. Amen!
1 Reading: ACTS 11:1-18
The Apostles and the brothers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles too had accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem the circumcised believers confronted him, saying, ‘You entered the house of uncircumcised people and ate with them.” Peter began and explained it to them step by step, saying, “I was at prayer in the city of Joppa when in a trance I had a vision, something resembling a large sheet coming down, lowered from the sky by its four corners, and it came to me. Looking intently into it, I observed and saw the four-legged animals of the earth, the wild beasts, the reptiles, and the birds of the sky. I also heard a voice say to me, ‘Get up, Peter. Slaughter and eat.’ But I said, ‘Certainly not, sir, because nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But a second time a voice from heaven answered, ‘What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.’ This happened three times, and then everything was drawn up again into the sky. Just then three men appeared at the house where we were, who had been sent to me from Caesarea. The Spirit told me to accompany them without discriminating. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. He related to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, saying, ‘Send someone to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter, who will speak words to you by which you and all your household will be saved.’ As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them as it had upon us at the beginning, and I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift he gave to us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God?” When they heard this, they stopped objecting and glorified God, saying, “God has then granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles too.”
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 42:2-3; 43:3, 4
R. (cf. 3a) Athirst is my soul for the living God. or: Alleluia.
As the hind longs for the running waters,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
Athirst is my soul for God, the living God.
When shall I go and behold the face of God? R.
Send forth your light and your fidelity;
they shall lead me on
And bring me to your holy mountain,
to your dwelling-place. R.
Then will I go in to the altar of God,
the God of my gladness and joy;
Then will I give you thanks upon the harp,
O God, my God! R.
Alleluia: JOHN 10:14
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord;
I know my sheep, and mine know me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: JOHN 10:1-10
Jesus said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them. So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
My last visit to my hometown was after a gap of several years. My physical appearance had changed in the meantime. I had greyed and put on some weight, and the wear and tear of aging were showing. I went to my home parish to celebrate Mass. Many people, including my own closest friend, came to me after the Mass and said: “Father, I did not recognize you initially. But the moment I heard your voice, I knew it was you!” There is something about the voice that remains constant in human relationships. “Seeing is believing” is a deceptive truism. In the world of the Gospel, hearing is believing. The sheep see the shepherd, but they know him by his voice. When they hear it they recognize him and follow him trustingly. They run away from strangers because they do not recognize their voice. Cardiognosis—knowing by one’s heart—follows intimate listening. After the resurrection Mary Magdalene stands at the empty tomb weeping. The Risen Christ comes to her. But she, who had seen, loved, and followed him everywhere until his death, fails to recognize him. It is when he calls her by name—“Mary!”—that she recognizes him and responds, “Rabboni!”
How familiar are you with the Master’s voice? Do you recognize it instantly in your life?
– Lord Jesus, let our Church keep its gates wide-open for all, from however far come those who are attracted by your voice, we pray:
– Lord Jesus, make our communities open its bolted doors to strangers and to people who are different, we pray:
– Lord Jesus, do not allow us to close our ears and hearts to people who cry out to us their pains and their needs, we pray:
Prayer over the Gifts
Lord, our God,
in these signs of bread and wine,
we recognize your care for all
and we welcome your Son, Jesus Christ.
Give us, the Holy Spirit of your Son,
that our love may become
as wide as the world,
and that all people may share
in the life and joy you offer to all
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen!
Prayer after Communion
Lord God, source of all life,
we thank you for the presence
of your Son, Jesus Christ, in our midst.
Do not allow us to withhold
his Word and his person
from all who hunger for him,
whether they know it or not.
Let us be his word and his body
to the world of today,
that our words and deeds
may echo his voice
and that we may be the door to you,
our God, for ever and ever. Amen!
Let Jesus not be a stranger to us but someone whose voice we recognize when he calls out to us in the needy, in loners, in people who have not experienced much justice and love. May Almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!