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Gospel Reflections

Gospel Reflection July 5 – Deacon Frank

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Sunday, July 5

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 11: 25-30

Gospel:

At that time Jesus exclaimed:
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to little ones.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Gospel Reflection:

As we gather to celebrate our wonderful country’s independence this weekend, I happened to tune in to the classic film called Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. For those who may not have seen it, Mr. Smith was played by the late actor, Jimmy Stewart. He portrayed Mr. Smith as an every man “aw shucks” kind of guy who makes his way into the U.S. Senate. In fact, it is his very character as a meek and humble guy-on-the-street that throws the corruption and ambition of DC politics into sharp relief. Such political values as meekness, humility and lowliness, have not always been so prevalent. For many throughout history, the demonstration of power – rather than humility – has been the key to political success. Modern day politicians feel they have to portray themselves as someone in charge who would get things done, be aggressive, and lead their people into victory.

In the Scriptures, the Old Testament prophets exposed the leaders for exercising power without justice. In the New Testament, Jesus and the apostles proclaimed a new kingdom altogether that will be one of love, meekness and humility. “Meek” is not a word we often use, but in this week’s Old Testament reading from Zechariah the prophet writes that “…the king…will be a just savior…meek…”and in the Gospel we see it come up when Jesus says ” Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened. Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.”

Such a message should indeed provide relief in our acrimonious political atmosphere. Not that Jesus would run for the US Senate, of course – his kingdom is not of this world. But when we feel exhausted by politics, this pandemic, the sorry state of our world, the different issues that divide us and our failure to communicate with one another civilly, we may find solace in Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus, although he was God, exercised and modeled humility for us all. And in that humility, we may rest from our own pretensions to greatness. God is not on our side over against their side; he is on the side of the poor and powerless against their oppressors. And in that we may find our rest.

-Deacon Frank Iannarino

Gospel Reflection June 28 – Sr Teresa

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Sunday, June 28

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 10: 37- 42

Gospel:

Jesus said to his apostles:
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and whoever does not take up his cross
and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

“Whoever receives you receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet
will receive a prophet’s reward,
and whoever receives a righteous man
because he is a righteous man
will receive a righteous man’s reward.
And whoever gives only a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones to drink
because the little one is a disciple—
amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”

Gospel Reflection:

I am going to shift our focus from the gospel passage because this weekend is significant for the community of St.Brigid of Kildare. On March 15, 2020 the last public Mass was celebrated in our Church building. We have had a Eucharistic Fast and Abstinence for 95 days. This weekend (June 27 and 28, 2020), the church building will be opened to the public but not without limits. In order to continue to do all that we can to keep people safe and help them to keep others safe, only 200 people will be allowed to attend each Mass. These precautionary measures present a continued challenge to the faithful. How do we practice our faith and continue to find spiritual nourishment away from church services and reception of Holy Communion?

We know that Bishop Brennan has extended the “obligation” of Mass attendance into September, but most celebrate Mass, not out of obligation, but because of a deep hunger to receive the gift of the Body and Blood of Jesus in Communion and out of a desire to share with the community.

It has been a strange 95 days. Many have taken advantage of watching Mass via the live stream. They have done this from St. Brigid or from other parishes. I attended Mass at Old St. Patrick’s in Chicago and realized that I was attending with over 8000 people. I attended an In-home Bread Service with the people of a church I use to attend in Louisville, KY. I joined with a group of other sisters and we, each in our own home, attended Mass together from Yale in New Haven, CT. Sometimes we have muted the homily and shared our thoughts on the readings and them rejoined for the remainder of the Mass. I have found it very difficult to stay focused when I am not actually participating in the ritual with the community face-to-face.

It has been 95 days reflecting on what it means to be Church and finding creative ways of celebrating with others so that we do not lose our sense of community. It has been 95 days of learning new ways to talk with each other and share experiences of how God is present to us, even in the midst of crisis. We have to keep telling ourselves, that the church never closed just the church building closed. The Church is not a building, it is a living, faith community. We are called not to attend Church (though we will rejoice when we are all able to do that again). We are called to be Church. How have you been Church during these pandemic times? How will you continue to be Church?

There is a reciprocity between liturgy and everyday life—the effectiveness of our Eucharist and the power of Christian witness are directly related. It is impossible to celebrate Eucharist meaningfully, if our lives are not Eucharistic–blessed, broken and shared with others. If our lives are not part of something greater than our individual selves, we miss out on the fullness and depth of meaning of Eucharist. St. Augustine use to say to those receiving Communion, “Become what you eat.” Those words have rung out loudly during these times of global pandemic. We must be bread for one another. We must be a source of nourishment for each other. We must be the Body of Christ in the world.

For those who are able to attend Mass, we all rejoice with you. It has between a long 95 day fast and abstinence period. For those who will not be able to attend or should not attend Church yet (myself included), I encourage us to keep searching for new and creative ways to be Church for each other. Keep reaching out to others. Keep being hungry for the gifts God offers us in a myriad of ways. Keep being bread for others. Keep being church for others. Keep being Christ for one another. “We are called to act with justice, we are called to love tenderly, we are called to serve one another and to walk humbly with God.” Micah 6:8 When we do this then we are a living, breathing CHURCH. We truly are the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

-SIster Teresa Tuite, OP

 

Gospel Reflection June 21 – Msgr Hendricks

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Sunday, June 21

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 10: 26 – 33

Gospel:

Jesus said to the Twelve:
“Fear no one.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.
But whoever denies me before others,
I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

Gospel Reflection:

The Gospel of Matthew quotes Jesus as saying to the twelve apostles, “So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” In hearing that, one wonders is that all there is? Am I worth nothing more than a bird, and not even a rare breed of bird? But like in all gospel passages there is a deeper meaning and context to the statement.

The poor in spirit and the poor financially were tasked with finding food that was both plentiful and inexpensive enough to keep them fed and alive. So they began to capture and eat sparrows. They were filling and an essential staple for the poor. They could purchase them cheaply and find them on their own. They could take them to the temple to offer as a sacrifice and thus remain connected to the Jewish Faith.

So it is actually encouraging to hear Jesus tell the twelve, “you are worth more than many sparrows,” because they would know that Jesus values them for who they are and the mission he has entrusted to them. That mission is to proclaim Him in the light of day, and not to be afraid of those who reject or persecute them on account of His name and teaching. Jesus is encouraging the twelve to hide out no longer, no hedges, just the message that He is the Lord of Life who has come to save the world.

Think about that message this week and when you see a sparrow remember their value too. They praise the Lord by their birdness, and we by our humanity.

-Monsignor Hendricks

Gospel Reflection June 14 – Fr. Morris

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Sunday, June 14

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

John 6: 51 – 58

Gospel:

Jesus said to the Jewish crowds:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.”
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

Gospel Reflection:

When Catholic priests were finally allowed back into Japan in the 1860s, they discovered to their shock that the Faith had endured in the land– without priests or Mass– since the seventeenth century. Despite Christianity having been criminalized and ardently persecuted, the Kakure Kirishitan, or “hidden Christians,” practiced their faith secretly, transmitting orally essential prayers and Bible passages, and performing lay Baptism.

It has been tough for so many of us to be absent from the Mass during this pandemic, to be removed physically from the Sacred Liturgy. And while as a priest, I am one of the few who HAVE had access to the Eucharist, I have also only been able to impart Holy Communion to a limited number of people: the assisting deacons, and the gravely ill. The nature of the priest’s vocation is that he is used by God to administer the Sacraments. And so part of the priest’s own personal relationship to the Sacraments is bound up in the fact that he is privileged to witnesses the reception of Jesus’ Sacraments by the other members of the Church. As a typical guy, feelings are not easy for me to put into words… but please just know that, while all of you may be disappointed from not having been able to receive the Eucharist, at the same time the clergy are disappointed that they have not been able to distribute the Eucharist to all of you!

When we compare ourselves to the Japanese Catholics who survived for centuries on just the Sacrament of Baptism and the bare prayer essentials of the Faith, we know that what we have had to endure this spring is a relatively brief trial. We will all soon be gathered again at Mass, receiving the Eucharist. But maybe this brief desert sojourn, separated from Jesus Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, will ensure that for the rest of our days, we will not create our own spiritual desert by missing Mass. We will attend Mass not because we have to, but because finally we get to! We will rejoice in the fact that we do not have to live a “hidden Christianity,” we can go to Mass and receive openly Jesus Christ present in the most Blessed Sacrament.

-Fr. Morris

Gospel Reflection June 7 – Deacon Paul

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Sunday, June 7

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

John 3: 16 – 18

Gospel:
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Gospel Reflection:
In today’s Gospel, we heard perhaps the most widely recognized verse in the New Testament. John 3:16! Go to most sporting events these days, or at least prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, and you will see someone displaying a sign that reads John 3:16 on it.

For the Gospel writer, John, this famous verse has two meanings. It refers first to the giving of the Son by the Father through the incarnation, but it also refers to the giving of the Son to die, to rise, and ascend in glory. God’s love for the human race, for you and me, is most fully expressed in God’s act of sending His Son. We can be assured of God’s love for us because of Christ’s presence among us.

Friends, God’s saving love is available for everyone. No one is given a greater share of God’s love than someone else. It is freely offered to all of us. However, a response is required from us. His love must be either accepted or rejected. John tells us that the rejection of God’s love is the same as preferring darkness over the light. What could be more horrible than to accept the darkness when one knows what it means to live in the light? And so, when you recite the prayer of Spiritual Communion this weekend at the virtual Mass, please remember John 3:16: “For God gave us his only Son so we might have eternal life.”

-Deacon Paul Zemanek

Gospel Reflection May 31 – Deacon Don

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Sunday, May 31

Pentecost Sunday

John 20: 19-23

Gospel:
On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Gospel Reflection:
Last week, we celebrated Jesus’ Ascension into heaven. This week, Jesus forms His Church (the Pentecost — the birth of His Church) and empowers the Apostles to lead it. From his heavenly home, Jesus originates the now popular Working From Home (WFH) method in getting things done. He has done this ever since through His Church. Today, being breathed on by another person would be inappropriate and even considered unhealthy. Yet this is precisely what Jesus does and by doing so, He breathes the Holy Spirit on us. But instead of spreading a deadly illness, He spreads life, peace, and hope. He breathes on us still in this time of uncertainty. Peace is much more than simply the absence of war. It is the strong desire and ability to cope and maintain balance during a time when the world around us seems to be falling apart.

I would mention just a word about the 1st and 2nd readings for this week’s Feast Day. In the 1st reading today (Acts Chapter 2) we have the apostles speaking Aramaic, their native language, but being heard and understood by Jews from around the world. It brings to full circle the first 11 chapters of Genesis in which the world was introduced to sin ending in Chapter 11 with the tower of Babel. The last sin introduced into the world was our inability to communicate with each other. By changing the language of those working on the tower, it divided and discouraged working together. We have lived that divide ever since. This passage in Acts expands the gift of language to the Apostles — through their teachings and living the life of Jesus Christ imprinted on them.

In our 2nd reading today (1 Corinthians Chapter 12), Paul describes the Church as the Body of Christ of which we are all a part. Each of us brings unique and essential skills to be part of that body. Our challenge is to discover what part of the body we provide — taking our skills and prayer to a new discovery. That discovery gives us meaning in our own life. Once we acknowledge and embrace our role, we serve the Body of Christ in the way we are gifted and in harmony with ourselves.

This time of isolation and separation is a time for reflection and resolve. With the discovery of who we are in relationship to the Body of Christ’s Church, we will be gifted with the language to preach it to others. We too can reverse the failure of Babel and rebuild the world in a common language using the breath of Jesus Christ and His Church to restore all back into harmony.

-Deacon Don Poirier

Gospel Reflection May 24 – Deacon Frank

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Sunday, May 24

The Ascension of the Lord

Matthew 28: 16 – 20

Gospel:
The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Gospel Reflection:
Airports are vulnerable places. Since 9/11 – and who knows what will happen to airline travel since the outbreak of COVID 19 – the various sections of the airport at any given moment you might witness or be part of tearful farewells or joy-filled reunions. Even before you are required to have your baggage weighed and screened, and before you are forced to take off your shoes, remove your laptop from your carry on and now, probably have to wear a mask throughout the whole flight, travelers will continue to find themselves saying goodbye at the curbside drop off. Departing often means leaving those whom we care deeply about – parents, spouses, children, grandchildren. And for those we have not seen for such a long time, the longing for return begins almost immediately.

When it came time for his ascension, Jesus knew that parting would be difficult – for him and for those he loved. As we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord this weekend, the conclusion of the Gospel of Matthew tells us that on the mountain the disciples doubted. We can imagine that they each felt a myriad of real emotions – doubt, but also sadness, fear, even anger. Jesus knew that it wasn’t going to be easy for them, so he gave them – and all of us – something to do.

Of course, it wasn’t just something to do like a scavenger hunt. It would become known as the GREAT COMMISSION, the call to ministry for the men and women who were to lead a community and eventually build a church. And now, as we start the very slow and careful process of returning to our church sanctuaries we still may continue to sit in our kitchens or living rooms celebrating Mass on YouTube or Facebook full of fear and anxiety and doubt and, maybe, rage. Jesus is somewhat commissioning us, once again, in the best way we can to do the same…build Christ’s church.

This journey through the COVID 19 “stay” which began in the middle of the Lenten Season, proceeded through the days of Holy Week, and has lasted through this season of Easter, continues. Just as that journey of faith over 2000 years ago didn’t end in death, it didn’t end at the empty tomb or a locked room. It didn’t end with Jesus being lifted up, nor has it ended in the centuries of faith that have followed, as his disciples have continued to carry out the GREAT COMMISSION. May our own journey continue THE Great Commission, our call to ministry, our call to community, our call to love.

-Deacon Frank Iannarino

Gospel Reflection May 17 – Sr. Teresa

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Sunday, May 17

Sixth Sunday of Easter

John 14: 15 – 21

Gospel:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But you know him, because he remains with you,
and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
In a little while the world will no longer see me,
but you will see me, because I live and you will live.
On that day you will realize that I am in my Father
and you are in me and I in you.
Whoever has my commandments and observes them
is the one who loves me.
And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

Gospel Reflection:
Right before Pilate turned Jesus over to be crucified, he asked, “What is truth?”
He was standing right before ETERNAL TRUTH and yet he did not recognize the truth. I wonder why we don’t recognize truth, or why we have trouble sometimes separating truth from falsehood. It reminds me of a story.

The TRUTH was going into town to give a speech. As the Truth was walking to town a Lie caught up with the Truth and asked where he was going. The Truth said he was going into town to give a speech. A Lie said, “Can I come too?” The Truth said he didn’t mind. So, the Truth and a Lie walked together on the road toward town. On the way they came to a pond and the Truth said he wanted to go for a swim. Truth invited a Lie to join him, but a Lie said he didn’t feel like swimming. He would just wait for the Truth to finish his swim.

So, the Truth took off his clothes and went for a swim. While he was in the water swimming, a Lie took off with the Truth’s clothes. He put on clothes of the Truth and headed into town. When the Truth finished with his swim, he looked around for his clothes but all he saw were the clothes of a Lie. Refusing to dress himself in the clothes of a Lie the Truth went naked into town.

As the Truth approached the town, he saw a crowd gathered. As he got even closer, he saw a Lie dressed as the Truth giving a speech. Unable to contain himself he shouted, “That’s a Lie, dressed as the Truth!” The people turned and saw the naked Truth and they turned their heads in shame and continued to listen to a Lie dressed as the Truth.

You see often people choose to see a Lie dressed as the Truth rather than face the naked Truth.

Even while we are still in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic stories and rumors circulate in great abundance. We are being bombarded from all realms – political (local and global), medical, familial, emotional and spiritual. Do this to cure the virus, no do this to cure it. This country was to blame. No it started here. Listen to this expert, no listen to this one. Social distancing is crazy — no, social distancing is the best way to contain the virus. It is a man-made virus. No, it was sent directly from God; no, it is an act of nature. It goes on and on until our minds are swirling in thousands of different directions.

In the area that is most sacred to us, our faith, the facts and opinions will go on and on as well. We will hear many things about Church and our spiritual well-being. “It worked out just as well attending Mass by live stream.” “No nothing can replace Mass in Church.” “Maybe community is not the best model for our faith.” “No, this experience has shown how important parish community is for us.”

Maybe we need to look at new ways to be Church instead of trying to figure out ways to perpetuate something that will never be the same again. The complexity, for me, is heightened the more important the issue. “What is truth?” We will have to listen; we will have to muddle through together and be willing to build the bridge as we cross it. We will have to pray and search and be open to things that may be very different from what we now know or have yet to imagine. Some truth will be lies dressed up to look like truth. Some things will be the naked truth.

“You see often people choose to see a Lie dressed as the Truth rather than face the naked Truth.” Which one will you choose? Which one will our Church choose?

How will we as individuals and as a faith community begin to sort things out?

Jesus gives us the answer in today’s gospel passage. I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you. God sent us an Advocate – the Spirit of Truth and that Spirit lives within us. BUT – we will have to be still, listen with open mind and open heart to bring forth this Spirit of Truth. Church will be different after the “coronavirus dust” settles and together we will have to respond to God’s call to rebuild my church. We will do it by separating lies dressed up as truths and embracing the naked truth and it is going to take a long time.

-Sister Teresa Tuite, OP

Gospel Reflection May 10 – Msgr. Hendricks

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Sunday, May 10

Fifth Sunday of Easter

John 14: 1 – 12

Gospel:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.
If there were not,
would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back again and take you to myself,
so that where I am you also may be.
Where I am going you know the way.”
Thomas said to him,
“Master, we do not know where you are going;
how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you know me, then you will also know my Father.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him,
“Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time
and you still do not know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.
The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me,
or else, believe because of the works themselves.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,
and will do greater ones than these,
because I am going to the Father.”

Gospel Reflection:
This familiar gospel of John is often used at funeral Masses to give hope and share the promise that the Risen Lord will have a place for us in His Father’s House. At the same time, the gospel asks us to realize that the Father and Jesus are one, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

What is happening here is that Jesus is reassuring us of our place and His. He is one with the Father and because of that he longs to return to the Father. And as he goes for us who believe in Him, we are to do the works that He did and “will do greater ones than these,” because of our faith and the Spirit that he has given.

As we enter into ever increasing developments and as we adjust to and find creative ways to deal with COVID-19, I am reminded of those who suffer so much, with poverty, unemployment, sickness, anxiety, and no place to live, those who have no food, no funds, no hope. Perhaps it is for these that we do the “greater things”that the gospel tells us about today.

This gospel on the Fifth Sunday of Easter is for us, and know that a “dwelling place” has been prepared for us each of us as promised.

-Monsignor Hendricks

Gospel Reflection May 3 – Fr. Morris

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Sunday, May 3

Fourth Sunday of Easter

John 10: 1 – 10

Gospel:
Jesus said:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate
but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.
But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice,
as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
When he has driven out all his own,
he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him,
because they recognize his voice.
But they will not follow a stranger;
they will run away from him,
because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”
Although Jesus used this figure of speech,
the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them.

So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
I am the gate for the sheep.
All who came before me are thieves and robbers,
but the sheep did not listen to them.
I am the gate.
Whoever enters through me will be saved,
and will come in and go out and find pasture.
A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy;
I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

Gospel Reflection:
I am a visual learner, so I was sorta obtuse like the Pharisees about what Our Lord was trying to say—until I saw a picture of a primitive livestock pen. If we had sheepfolds in Dublin, I’m sure the building code would require that they look a lot like the above dry-stacked stone sheepfold in contemporary rural England. But like all truly great innovations, the simplicity and effectiveness of the sheepfold structure means that this contemporary British example and the structures the disciples saw in their walks from village to village are essentially the same.

A sheepfold is a secure enclosure, a livestock pen with one way in and out. The sheep are herded into it through the gap at nightfall, and let back out through the gap in the morning. Sheepfolds can be made from gathering surrounding loose rocks, or by incorporating a rock feature like a cave or sheer outcropping. In the nomadic shepherding culture of Jesus’ day, sheepfolds were communal affairs that slowly built up into impressive structures over the course of many years. Just imagine each wandering shepherd idly adding a rock or two to the walls while they used the sheepfold, and doing that over and over as they moved between grazing areas.

The dead-simple sheepfold structure could be easily improved upon by adding a simple wood gate to close the gap. But itinerant shepherds using communal sheepfolds hit upon a simpler solution requiring no wood or fasteners. They would funnel their flock into the safety of the enclosure, and then simply campout for the night in the opening itself. Wrapped up in their bedroll, they were literally “the gate” through which any predators or thieves would have to pass by to get to their defenseless flock.

Sheep are not exactly the brightest bulbs in the animal kingdom, but one would have to think that seeing their master wedged securely into the only entry point for their pen would reassure the sheep, allowing even the most skittish among them to lay down and sleep peacefully. They knew that no matter how dark the night became, the same person that defended them from predators in the bright sunshine was also going to defend them in the inky blackness.

Our Lord is the gatekeeper who is also the gate itself, the gentle shepherd who is also the fearless defender, the suffering Servant who is also the victorious Risen Son. He will defend us from not only the economic and viral dangers we can see in the harsh light of day, but also the hidden spiritual dangers that lie out there in the impenetrable darkness of human pride and sin.

-Fr. Morris