Welcome to Green Reflections, the blog dedicated to reflections on the readings from the Roman Catholic Sunday Lectionary, with particular sensitivity to the needs of the earth. Use this blog to deepen your own awareness of our Creator's desires for the planet and ways that we can appreciate God's goals for the earth,giving it the loving care that it deserves.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

May 15, 2011 – 4th Sunday of Easter

Acts 2, 36-41 1 Pet 2:20-25 Jn 10:1-10

Today we begin a new format of reflections. These take the form of a conversation following the reading of the memoirs of the apostles (gospels and epistles) between first century catechumen, Recepta, and her teacher, Petras.

Recepta walked away from the reading shaking her head. “I don’t get it, Petras. Why would Jesus ever label a shepherd ‘good?’ We all know how unobservant and, often, immoral shepherds can be.”

“That’s just it,” replied Petras. “Jesus frequently took ordinary human perceptions and turned them on their heads! He seemed to enjoy confounding folks in order to get their attention. Clearly it worked with you.”

“But really,” Recepta replied, “He even got the practice of shepherding wrong. Everyone knows that shepherds walk behind the sheep so that they don’t stray. It’s pretty rare that a shepherd walks in front of them, expecting the sheep to follow.”

“Precisely!” Petras exclaimed. “I want you to think about it. Jesus was obviously criticizing Temple leaders who entered the ministry for personal gain. Sometimes I’ve even known men to become priests or scribes simply to perpetuate the Temple system.”

“That’s just plain wrong!” Recepta interrupted.

“Exactly,” Petras confirmed. “But we mustn’t think that only Temple leadership serve for their own purposes. Awhile back, there was a certain magician by the name of Simon. Simon actually went to the holy apostle Peter offering to buy his power to heal! Simon wanted to get the power to heal people so that he could become famous. Then the crowds would seek him out and pay him for healings.”

“Well, I hope Peter wouldn’t share the power with him,” Recepta observed.

“Of course not. Peter saw right through the man’s request and pretty much told him where he could go!” Petras chuckled at the memory. “We have to be very careful if we feel called to serve God’s people. The only reason God calls someone into ministry is so that Jesus may be better known and loved. Anyone who loves Him becomes a servant to the Church.”

“Okay,” Recepta responded. “I was confused by another thing Jesus said. He was saying that He is the Good Shepherd but He also said that He is the Gate. What did He mean?”

“The part about being the Good Shepherd is easy to explain. Just like Jesus taught and healed and guarded His followers before the resurrection, He continues to do today. Jesus always walks ahead of us so that we will know the way is safe. He even walked ahead of us into death showing us that death is merely a door into eternity. Those who know and love Him learn to hear His voice when they pray, so that they can discern how Jesus is calling them to be and where they should go. Of course, we have to become very good at listening to His Spirit’s promptings and we need to test every spirit, to be sure it comes from Jesus. In Peter’s letter to us, he reminds us that Jesus died so that we would be free. We are free—free from sin and even more. We are free to follow wherever Jesus leads us—free to witness His love—free to proclaim the gospel—even in the face of the Empire!”

“I know and believe that I am free from sin, Petras. But I don’t think that I am so free that I can announce the gospel or even witness God’s love for us. Too often I am afraid to do that.”

“I know, my catechumen friend. Part of the reason for your fear is that you have not yet come to fully embrace the Good News that Jesus died for you and is risen for you. It can be difficult to turn your life completely over to God’s love. The other reason you still have fears, is that you have not yet entered the Gate that Jesus spoke about.”

“The Gate?”

“Yes, remember that Jesus said His followers enter through the Gate. He was referring to us and Himself. We enter into God’s people assembled in the Church through baptism into Him. Once you have moved through Jesus’ baptism into the Church, you will be surrounded and supported by believers like you, who love the Lord Jesus and strive to live His way. Part of our witness is to each other where we form fellowship in the Lord. Through our fellowship we strengthen one another’s faith and rejoice that we’ve been chosen to know God’s heart as Jesus revealed God to us.”

“Oh, that’s what He meant about being the Gate!” Recepta replied. “Jesus is the Good Shepherd who leads us to God and He is the one who admits us to fellowship in Him with all other believers. Hmmm. It seems like he was sternly warning us to humility and service when He talked about being true shepherds and not hirelings.”

“Oh, my, yes!” Petras responded. “Our frail human nature is always with us and the temptations to pride and wealth are strong. Even when we are not Church leaders, we must be aware of who genuinely speaks for Jesus and who may have another agenda. If we are not vigilant we can be led astray by would-be leaders who teach a gospel other that what Jesus gave us.”

“I suppose the entire Christian community must beware of false leaders, Petras. Even in our gatherings outside of worship and study, we need to be servants to our various organizations. In our unions and federations, in all our enterprises, we need to realize that Jesus has called us to be servant-leaders who bring the message of blessing, of peace and of truth. We are no longer simply in the world for our own good.”

“Now, Recepta, I think you’ve made the connections to ordinary life. Well done! Christianity is about following Jesus’ manner in all of our relationships. Our faith is more than a Sunday duty; it is a way of life. Since Jesus is the way, we seek to make His mind and His heart our own, so that others can experience Jesus through us.”

“Thank you, Petras. I’ll see you at our Wednesday gathering.”

How am I careful to recognize the voice of Jesus’ Spirit in my life? Do I assess leaders in my Church and business dealings in light of Jesus’ Spirit?

Key words

Bible, Scripture, Christian, environment, ecology, lectionary, reflection, homily, sermon, Catholic, green, environmentally friendly, sustainability, the common good, the commons

About Me

The Green Nun earned an MA in theology from the Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley and is currently completing a Masters degree in Earth Literacy from St. Mary-of-the-Woods College in Indiana. This blog spot is being done as an integration project for the MA.