Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter, May 13, 2019
“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. And the gate to the sheepfold is open to all those who desire to pass through Jesus. Once we access the sheepfold via Jesus, then we are right in.
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 42:2-3; 43:3, 4
R. (see 3a) Athirst is my soul for the living God. or: R. 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.”
In the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel, read in part on Good Shepherd Sunday, two distinct images appear. One depicts Christ as the Good Shepherd; the second speaks of him as the sheepfold gate. It is the latter that appears in today’s Gospel. To enter the sheepfold through Christ is the sole recognized way of access; to enter through others ways is the route of deceivers and robbers. The authentic leaders of the faithful remain faithful to the voice of Christ.
The image certainly underscores the importance of orthodoxy and authenticity of teaching. But it also points to a willingness to accept change.
The first major issue that early Christianity had to face was the decision to accept Gentile converts, a question that arises in today’s reading from Acts of the Apostles. One of the major obstacles to religious homogeneity centered on the question of the Jewish food laws. A considerable part of the Jewish legal code distinguished between clean and unclean foods.
Therefore table fellowship with unbelievers was excluded. In today’s reading, at the direction of the Lord himself, all foods were declared clean. The full acceptance of the Gentiles is authenticated with the giving of the Holy Spirit, in a scene often referred to as the Gentile Pentecost.
It was moments such as this that made Christianity a universal religion. Otherwise it would have withered on the vine or remained a sect, albeit a fringe one, of Judaism.
Both in early Christianity as well as in later centuries, there were moments of great change. Change is an integral part of growth and development. It should not cause us dismay. As long as we enter through the gate of the sheepfold, we need have no fear.
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!