Reflection for Sunday – May 8, 2022

Readings: Acts 13: 14, 43-52; Revelations 7:9, 14b-17; John 10:27-30 
Preacher: Deni Mack

Jesus’ words are timeless: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” We thirst for God’s Word.  Each week we come to hear the Word of God tugging at our souls, inviting, cajoling, begging, demanding us to see the kingdom of God more glorious, more enduring than this passing world of ours.

We’ve heard these scriptures before but we heard them anew today because we have changed since the last time we heard them.  Our churches have changed and the world we live in has changed.

This Easter season of Grace is working on us to co create new hope with God.  Despite the invasion of Ukraine, despite the pandemic, and despite threatened ecological collapse, we will not let the fire of our hope die.  We may feel almost numb or on the brink of despair but we listen for Jesus; we watch for God’s action. We take comfort in knowing that each day God graciously gives us the power and grace we need to live in God’s love.  We’re baptized into this love, comforting, strengthening and sustaining us to love as Jesus loves, especially in difficult times.  We listen to the truly good shepherd especially as COVID spikes, war ensues and wildfires soar.

Jeremiah warned us all to beware of false shepherds who mislead the flock, scatter the sheep and fail to care for them. Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles shows us preaching shepherds, Paul and Barnabas leading so many people of faith that the established religious leaders were jealous of them.  Imagine being in Antioch when “on the following Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.” 

Wow! Isn’t that a lovely scene?  Imagine almost the whole city of Rochester gathered to hear the word of the Lord!  Masked, of course.  A few years ago, when the first Muslim ban was announced, we gathered at Temple Sinai to hear Jewish, Muslim and Catholic refugee resettlement experts share the Word of the Lord. That crowd filled Temple Sinai; it seemed the whole city gathered to hear the word of the lord.  And soon after Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue massacre, Muslim, Catholic and many others shared the Word of the Lord at Temple B’rith Kodesh. It looked and felt like the whole city of Rochester gathered to hear the Word of the Lord.

I hang on to those pivotal events.  More people than not do care, do want to stop the violence, do welcome the stranger, and do stand up to the false shepherds.  People in Poland do welcome refugees.  We share the Word of the Lord. We do catch glimpses of Jesus’ reign of justice right here, right now. We listen to the truly good shepherd as we make peace, and bring peace to one another.

Like a woman I will call Mary.  She told me she was “sick to death” when a woman in AA lifted her with care and loved her back to life.  This dear AA sponsor told Mary of God’s love for 7 days and 7 nights as she fed her, wiped her brow, held her. Mary felt God’s love through this woman who scooped her up and comforted her. Two years later, that dear AA sponsor saw Mary do the same for another person right when the sponsor herself needed to see tender care. That good shepherd needed to see a good shepherd.

The good shepherd nurtures us to see people as God sees them.  God sees each one of us with love. In the RCIA several years ago, a good shepherd told a man whose brother is gay, “You don’t have to have a lobotomy to join the Catholic Church.”

We listen to Jesus; we know the shepherd’s voice; the good shepherd knows us each, intimately! Jesus in today’s gospel assures us he gives us eternal life.  Our relationship with Jesus is dynamic, evolving, changing.  As our relationship with Jesus circles from curiosity to discipleship to sticking with him no matter what, we become companions of Jesus. As disciples we love as Jesus loves; as Jesus’ companions we are nurtured by him to love and to listen so well to him we let him do the saving.

Jesus’ faithful love is the pattern of our own shepherding, our own caring for one another.  Christ, the shepherd is in our DNA especially when we’re a mentor, neighbor, uncle, aunt, supervisor, boss, teacher, manager, coach, counselor, spouse, sponsor and (we have to name her on mothers day)—a parent!

Denise Mack