Saturday, April 20, 2013

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER: "I am the good Shepherd."

Acts 4, 8-12; Psalm 117; 1 John 3, 1-2; John 10, 11-18

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Jesus Christ is truly risen. Through the glory of the Resurrection the triune God reveals himself so that we may believe. "Christ's Resurrection is an object of faith in that it is a transcendent intervention of God himself in creation and history. In it the three divine persons act together as one, and manifest their own proper characteristics. The Father's power 'raised up' Christ his Son and by doing so perfectly introduced his Son's humanity, including his body, into the Trinity. Jesus is conclusively revealed as 'Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his Resurrection from the dead.' (Rom 1:3-4; cf. Acts 2:24) St. Paul insists on the manifestation of God's power (Cf. Rom 6:4; 2 Cor 13:4; Phil 3:10; Eph 1:19-22; Heb 7:16) through the working of the Spirit who gave life to Jesus' dead humanity and called it to the glorious state of Lordship." (CCC 648)

But, many ask, how do we know here and now that this God-Man has risen for us, that we now share in his life, that we too will rise again? "I am the Resurrection and the Life", says the Lord, "he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live." (Jn 11:25) Our belief is his gift that we may have life "abundantly". (Jn 10:10) But by this faith we are to live in relationship to Christ, finding security and sustenance in him: "I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and will find pasture." (Jn 10:9)

There is a door through which all of us must pass: the door of death which leads beyond this earthly life. Jesus Christ has gone through this door, having died according to the flesh, and he has revealed that death has no power over him because he is Lord of life. He has returned from that journey to tell us the way, to show us how to live so that when we die we need have no fear of death's danger. Again and again he greets us with the words "Peace be with you" after his Resurrection. Peace is ours because all fear is cast out when we place perfect faith in Him who is Life and who gives life. For those who love Him and surrender to His lordship Christ is the door. Whoever departs this world through him will be "safe". How do we enter the sheepfold? Where in the world is the "gate" of which Jesus speaks? Who are the thieves and hirelings of whom we must beware?

"You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.' ( Mt 16:18) Christ, the 'living stone,' (1 Pet 2:4) thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it. (Cf. Lk 22:32)" (CCC 552)

An ancient saying helps us to find our way: "where Peter is, there is the Church", ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia.

"Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: 'I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.' (Mt 16:19) The 'power of the keys' designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: 'Feed my sheep.' (Jn 21:15-17; cf. 10:11) The power to 'bind and loose' connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom." (CCC 553)

The choice is ours to make. If we are to be preserved from the "powers of death", the curse of those who pass through the "gates of Hades", then we must live in the Church against which the jaws of death shall never prevail. We must surrender to the governance of the Holy Father as to Christ himself: in absolution, doctrine and discipline.

The Church, in union with Peter the rock throughout the world, is the gate through which all men go to eternal life. Blessed be God who has given the gift. Now it is up to us to preach and live the truth about the Church, "house of God and gate of heaven", in which we confidently and joyfully look forward to passing safely through the danger of death into the eternal embrace of the triune God.

Let us pray: Almighty and ever-living God, give us new strength from the courage of Christ our shepherd, and lead us to join the saints in heaven, where he lives and reigns with you and the holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. (Opening prayer for today's liturgy.)

I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy" -Father Cusick

Meeting Christ in the Liturgy
(Publish with permission.)

(Art: Philippe de Champaigne, The Good Shepherd, 1650-60.)

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