Reflection for Sunday – May 7, 2017
Readings: Acts 2: 14A, 36-41; 1 Peter 2: 20B-25; John 10: 1-10
Preacher: Gloria Ulterino
I don’t know a thing about sheep and shepherds. How about you? But we do know about Voice. We know that there are all kinds of voices in our lives and in our heads. Like destructive ones, left over from past hurt. The voices of thieves, who would rob us of our self-respect and human dignity. Who might even sneer at us, “Why did you ever think you could do that? You can’t—not even close!”
Ah, but then there are the voices of the ones who care about us, and claim us for all the good in us. Definitely not strangers! No, they are intimate with us. Enough to see through to the very depths of our souls. They take delight in us. Encourage us. Nudge us forward, because we can become everything they see in us. These are the echoes of Jesus, our Good Shepherd. “You have gifts! Use them! You can do it!” In the end, these are the only ones who can lead us and guide us to abundant life, in and through Jesus, the ultimate Voice of all.
Today Peter raises his voice, loud and clear, echoing Jesus, in his first great preaching event. The same Peter who has heard the voice of Jesus call him, teach him, correct him, forgive him, and then send him forth. Immediately upon the heels of Pentecost. Remember how many people that day thought the disciples were drunk? But no! They were inebriated with the life-giving power of Jesus’ Spirit! So it is, that Peter stands up. Now fearless. Now echoing the voice of Jesus. Now calling people to repent, and be baptized. Three thousand of them that very day.
There’s another leader of the early Church, whose name we seldom hear, but who also heard the Voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Only this time it was through the apostle Paul. Her name? Lydia. (See Acts, chapter 16.) A dealer in purple cloth, she hailed from the area of western Turkey called Lydia, well known for its purple dye. It’s believed that she’d been a slave, who purchased her freedom and moved westward with her entire household, tradespeople in purple dye. They ended up in Philippi, on the trade route to Rome. But Lydia was also on an intense search for the Living God. She would gather for worship with some Jewish women on the Sabbath. Then one day Paul arrived. No sooner did he start preaching about Jesus than she was electrified. This was the One! The Good Shepherd of her soul! The Very One she’d been yearning for! “Oh, come to my house!” she pleaded with Paul. He responded immediately … and baptized her entire household! Not only that, she became leader of the church at Philippi, and a courageous one, at that! For she could have been imprisoned for her faith, even killed. But the Good Shepherd’s Voice was stronger than any fear.
What about us, today? True enough, we have not heard the voice of Jesus in person, as did Peter. But we have all, like Lydia, heard echoes of that One True Voice. Each in our own way. Take a moment now, to call to mind one or more of those times. What can we say about them?
Doesn’t that Voice come as a gift, on the wings of the Holy Spirit? Maybe as a surging, life-changing event. Or perhaps as a tender, gentle, persistent balm. But always, as healing for every put down, every struggle with addiction, every wound of shame, every lie of “not good enough, never good enough.” Doesn’t this Voice, this echo of the Good Shepherd, ring true in the depth of our very being, even in the midst of our doubts? Isn’t it a Voice so authentic, so life-giving, that it cannot, and must not, be ignored?
Yet, there’s even more. Just as that Voice connects to our deepest need, it offers a mission that only we can undertake, with our unique gifts. Is it to help others heal from grief? Or rape? Or imprisonment … or the wounds of war? Is it a burning desire to help heal our bruised planet? Or so many other cries piercing the heavens. Or perhaps simply to pray with and companion others on their life journeys. Doesn’t this Voice take us just us as we are, only to point us toward a future that only we can offer? Like better government. A more just Church. A ministry of spiritual companionship. Doesn’t this Voice, in effect, have our name on it for the healing of our broken world? We may not know much about sheep, but we do know the Voice of the Good Shepherd. Always a voice of life. Love. Compassion and Healing. For us all.
Why does preaching matter to me?
Can you remember a homily you heard manyyears ago?I can.It changed my life.In July, 1983, I participated in my first preaching workshop, given by Dominican Sister Joan Delaplane.A powerful preacher and expert professor of preaching, she “became” the man at the pool of Bethsaida, by the Sheep Gate.Ill for 38 years, Jesus confronted him with this question, “Do you want to be healed?”He replied (to us), “you may think that’s easy to answer, but it’s not.”As she listed all the reasons why she simply was not sure whether or not she wanted to be healed, I could literally feel a fire in my belly.Wow!I must learn how to do this!
Preaching is a sacred responsibility for me.I have worked long and hard to give my best: to pray with the Scripture, to meet with a homily team for an hour of conversation on the readings, to search out commentaries, and always to wait on the Spirit of God for a spark of truth, on which to build the reflection.Preaching is a joy, a challenge, and a calling.