Commentary on the Fourth Sunday of Easter
Let me begin today with a story about Mother Theresa. During her visit to the United Nations several years ago, Blessed Mother Theresa was approached by a diplomat who said, "I am not a Catholic, Mother. But I want to know: how should I pray.” The frail little nun took his burly hands in hers and spread out five of his fingers on one hand. "When you pray,” she said, "Think about the many blessings you have received; then, at the end of the day, count out on each finger the words spoken to you by Jesus: You did this for me. The diplomat left holding up his hand as though it were a trophy and saying: You did this for me.
In this simple prayer, Mother Theresa made real for the diplomat that the Resurrection can and does live within every person. The love and peace of the Good Shepherd is present to us in the many moments of compassion that bless our lives. In kind words, in the listening ear, in the generous actions of others for us, there is Jesus, doing this to me. He is also present in the blessings we extend to others. The Good Shepherd of today's gospel, God's Word of love made flesh, guides us every day in our journey to the eternal life of the Father.
"In him, we live and move and have our being,” as St. Paul says to the Athenians in Acts 17. We are protected from the rain of attacks on our lives with the Divine Umbrella he extends over us. We live under his merciful love for us.
Under the Mercy. That phrase was repeated over and over again in a wonderful book A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. Left to ourselves, we are inclined to destroy the purpose for our existence and eliminate any meaning to our lives. But committed to Christ, everything in our lives makes sense, has meaning, has purpose. Our commitment to Christ protects us from being destroyed by those who mock us and attack us. Our commitment to Christ protects us from destroying ourselves. This is the deep mercy of the Lord.
"Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ,” St. Paul tells the Christians under persecution in Rome, "Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The vision of Revelation 7, our second reading for this Sunday, is that of the countless number of the saved who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Their robes are their baptismal garments. More than that, their robes are their baptismal lives. They have purified their lives, washed them, made them white, by accepting the cross of Jesus, the blood of the Lamb. Now they minister to the Lord before the throne of God in eternal happiness. They would be the first to admit that the yoke of Christ was light, the suffering they endured for standing up for him was minor, the path they was led by Him was easy. The Divine Shepherd knows them, guides them, and protects them so that their happiness may be eternal.
This is the deep mercy of the Lord which we also enjoy. Your neighbors laugh at you for your devotion to the Lord. They mock you widow and widowers who have married each other in Christ because you have sacrificed financial plans and married rather than live together in sin. They mock you young parents who welcome the surprise pregnancy rather than have that life destroyed. They attack you honest people of various businesses for your just standards and try to eliminate you from your positions because less honesty is more cost effective. They insult you young people who are willing to be the so-called only one who doesn't drink, take drugs or have sex. They can attack us, but they cannot destroy the peace and the love the Jesus Christ within us. We live under the peace and mercy of the Good Shepherd.
Under the mercy of the Lord we are protected from our worst enemy, ourselves. We avoid that which destroys his presence in our homes and hearts. This is a great mercy. Each of us knows that which is self destructive in our lives. We continually petition the Lord for strength to fight that which destroys us. In little steps, sometimes too small to realize, we walk away from death and walk with the Lord. We live under the mercy of Jesus Christ.
Life, meaningful life, is about Jesus Christ.
We are called upon today to recognize his presence in our lives. Like the disciples of Paul and Barnabas at the conclusion of today's first reading, the only real need we have in our lives is to learn how to be filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. For the Mercy of God directs our lives to happiness. Jesus did this for us.