Dearest Parishioners and Friends,
This Sunday's collect (opening prayer) is beautiful:
Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life...
To know God is everlasting life. How simple, yet how mysterious. Relationship. To know is to be in relationship. If I simply let myself be drawn into relationship with the One who is love, Source of all goodness, I live "happily ever after". Everlasting life, however, is not the afterlife-as we may sometimes think. Everlasting life begins here and now, hidden in the soul, made manifest when we love one another, when we love as Christ loves us.
In today's gospel, John 13, the Last Supper, Jesus gives the new commandment:
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
He gives the new commandment after speaking of glory and of "leaving" the disciples. In a sense, glory is everlasting life, the luminous and loving life of God as it overflows. In commanding divine love (the only love that can be commanded!), Jesus teaches us a secret to participating already in everlasting life, Jesus shows us how to manifest everlasting life in our lives. When we love one another with this mysterious love heaven is on earth...
This Sunday is traditionally called “Good Shepherd Sunday”. The Risen Lord, in the Gospel of John, declares himself the Good Shepherd. What does this mean? A good shepherd is a loving shepherd. The more loving the shepherd, the “gooder” he or she is. A loving shepherd is one who spends him or herself for the sheep, tending them and feeding them. Indeed, “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
Jesus is truly the good shepherd, for he feeds us with himself. St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Commentary on the Gospel of John, says “that Christ is a shepherd is clear enough, for as a flock is led and fed by the shepherd, so the faithful are nourished by Christ with spiritual food, and even with his own body and blood”.
The relationship between sheep and the Good Shepherd is, therefore, one of intimacy and safety. In today’s gospel (John 10: 22-30), Jesus says it all: “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”
Let us rejoice in being sheep! Our Risen Lord knows where he is leading us: to verdant pastures, where he gives us repose for our souls. Let us follow in faith, hope and love.
Dearest Parishioners and Friends,
As the Easter season continues to unfold, we consider the various appearances of Jesus to His disciples, appearances of mercy, appearances intended to assist in bewilderment and discouragement. Indeed, in his commentary on this gospel passage, St. Thomas Aquinas says of Peter resuming his previous trade, “I concur with Augustine, that if Peter had returned to the work of fishing before Christ's resurrection and before seeing Christ's wounds, it was because he was acting out of despair.” Peter had given up. There was no reason to continue the ministry, for their leader was supposedly dead.
Jesus, out of mercy, comes to them, in the midst of their despair, engages them in the activity for which they abandoned their ministry, and, instead of scolding them, makes it enormously successful: “they cast the net, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish”. Talk about magnanimity of heart. Jesus never holds a grudge, for there is no time to waste in love.
The Risen Lord comes to us, to assist us in our despair. We are sometimes overwhelmed, lose sight of Him, and return to former ways. But He does not hold a grudge. He engages us right where we are. Now, we may not always immediately recognize him. Let us know in faith that He is present. Let us lean on the testimonies of others. Let us trust. And let us know that His hiddenness is perhaps His way of asking us, as He asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Even though we may be bewildered and discouraged by life’s circumstances, we can still, aided by the Holy Spirit, respond as Peter so movingly did, in the midst of his bewilderment and discouragement "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you."
Yours in our Risen Lord,
"Blessed are those who have not seen and have come to believe." This declaration by Jesus in this Sunday's gospel of John (20:19-31), if taken at face value, is most strange. And, in it strangeness, it emerges quite prominently. Blessed, i.e., happy are those who have not seen? Hmmm. Wait a minute, I thought seeing is believing?!? And I thought that I am only really happy when I see (and experience) for myself?!? Jesus is telling us that, when it comes to Him, we are happy even without seeing Him. This must mean that, although we do not see, we experience. Well, we do experience Him, our Risen Lord, in faith. Faith is not simply beliefs about Him, but a gift that mysteriously enables us to experience Him-without seeing a thing. Strange indeed. Happy indeed. Our Risen Lord is alive and present and He draws us to Himself.
We have a few upcoming special events, the next two Sundays, during Coffee Hour. Next Sunday, April 10, I will share a few thoughts on how I understand the Anglo-Catholic experience. My intention is to articulate and explore, beyond liturgical style, the spiritual gifts that define this particular experience of Christ in His Church. On Sunday, April 17, we will have a "parish family chat", during which the "Hospitality Team" will present its ministry, and I will share a few thoughts on ministries in general, present the results of our "Moving Forward" parish visioning and planning, and discuss a few other things.
The Easter season lasts 50 days, to and including Pentecost (May 15), celebrated as single joyful day. Indeed, in 50 days, we only begin to scratch the surface of the mystery of the Resurrection. Our Risen Lord is alive and present and He draws us to Himself. Happy Easter again and again!
Yours in Christ,
From the desk of the Rector