Reflection for Sunday – April 30, 2023
Readings: Acts 2: 14a, 36-41; 1 Peter 2:20b-25; John 10:1-10
Preacher: Ruth Marchetti
As we see played out in the first reading today, regret is a painful emotion. When Jesus lived, his very presence drew crowds. The power of his words and his astonishing healings created a throng of followers who were willing to go hungry just to hear him speak. What happened? How could people so quickly turn their backs on their hero?
We see it all the time today when one day’s idol becomes the next day’s tabloid feature. At some point, people realized that following Jesus wasn’t all free bread and fish. It meant change and they clearly weren’t ready for that. When Jesus became Rome’s prisoner, his followers turned their backs. They closed their hearts to the many ways he had touched them.
Now his disciples, proof positive of God’s mercy and forgiveness in their own sinful lives, are preaching in equally compelling words and healing miraculously. The people notice and realizing how profoundly they failed are “cut to the heart.” Isn’t that the first step towards recovery?
These readings today describe so well what it means to be human. There are “top of the mountain” times when we are so attentive to the shepherd’s voice that we, too, can only imagine goodness and kindness by “verdant pastures and restful waters.” Our souls are indeed refreshed. Then there are those dark valley times when hardship, loss or just busyness and distraction turn our eyes from God. We’ve lost the voice of the shepherd in the cacophony of life and fall prey to false shepherds telling us that material things, business success, financial security, comfort, or the approval of others is sometimes just more important. The abundance of things and our dependence on them rob us of life. The shepherd said, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
In the beginning, through billions of years, God created a world of balance, full of life and death, to be sure, but a world with rich soil, clean water and fresh air. That world was alive beneath the soil as all kinds of fungi and microbes lived in sync with decaying matter and plant roots to feed and nourish green things. That world was alive beneath the seas as sea plants, coral, fish, plankton, bivalves, sea mammals and all sorts of living things nourished one another. That world’s atmosphere sheltered the living things from the sun’s harmful rays, provided an insulating blanket so our earth was neither too hot nor too cold and had just the right mix of oxygen and carbon dioxide for plants and animals to breathe.
When humans entered the picture, their ability to use tools to farm began to add more carbon and methane to the atmosphere and, for a while, that made our earth’s climate even a bit more temperate, allowing humans to thrive and multiply. But we forgot about balance and allowed our streams to be fouled with waste, our soil to be poisoned, our oceans to be acidified and our atmosphere to fill with insulating gasses that gradually raised the earth’s temperature. Prophets spoke, including Catholic popes going back to Pope John XXIII, but change was just too hard. We closed our ears and just kept buying more things and burning petroleum.
We know now that we waited too long to change. Already, around the world, people suffer from rising waters, drought, intense storms and disastrous wildfires. Climate disasters are forcing people to become migrants that nobody wants. Even if we stop adding carbon and methane to the air today, the earth will continue to warm for generations. Talk about regret! Why didn’t we listen when there was still time to avoid this suffering?
Well of course it’s because we’re human, it’s very hard to change. So we’re left with regret.
But Peter reminds us that there’s always time for repentance, for letting in God’s mercy and forgiveness. If we allow our regret to move us to once more listen to the shepherd’s voice, we humans can begin the hard work of healing and of caring for all God’s creatures. It’s never too late for that.