4th Sunday of Easter (Note & Bulletin)

Last year was my first time presiding at Confirmations. Of the different sacraments, Confirmation is the one that seems downplayed, like in a way it is no big deal, like it is some kind of graduation. But as each young person approached, and they were blessed with the sacred Chrism, I said “be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit,” and then, to their “amen” I put my hand on their shoulder and said “Peace be with you.” To my surprise, it was a moving experience.

In this week’s Gospel, Jesus identifies himself as the gate through which the sheep enter for the fullness of life. He also said that there are also many thieves, bandits and pretenders. It seems to me that we live in a world that surrounds us with voices that encourage us to enter through their gates. These voices tell us that unless we have a certain amount of money, or things, or prestige, or success, we won’t be worth much. These voices tell us that unless we are popular with the ‘in group’ or if we don’t look or dress a certain way, we will never have the opportunity for love. I think these voices are the voices that Jesus identifies as thieves and bandits. They are voices that seek to steal life from us.

To these voices that seek to distract us from life, the Risen Lord is the remedy. When I was much younger, before I entered the Jesuits, I was filled with ambition. And while there’s not anything necessarily wrong with ambitions, mine were disordered. The disorder that they made clear was that in my heart I believed that unless I obtained certain things I would never be much of a human being. When I struggled I felt worse about myself. When I experienced some success, the feeling of peace was very temporary. I may have gained something but the glow would soon wear off and I would be left wondering if there weren’t something more to life than this. Our desire for peace, our desire for joy, our desire for the fullness of life are all manifestations of our desire for God. In the deepest part of our hearts we know this but so too do we fear it. We want to latch on to something so that we can say “this is who I am, my life is complete.” Yet we know that these are illusions.

Jesus says that he is the gate and that the sheep know his voice. This is absolutely true. When we listen to other voices, when we are mean, judgmental, exclusive, impatient, critical, and prone to gossip we don’t feel larger, we feel smaller. And we feel smaller because in the deepest part of our hearts we can still hear his voice. The voice does not offer success. It does not offer honour or esteem. It does not offer anything except itself. The Risen Lord tells us that we do not have to hide from the Father out of embarrassment for our sinfulness. Rather, he says that we are part of his flock, that is, his family. St. Peter says in the Second Reading, “When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.” So Church –before us is offered a large life. And it is large because it is rooted and grounded in love. In the deepest part of our hearts let us hear our voice longing for him and let us hear his voice longing for us. Let us know that we are his flock, we are his family.

God Bless and Take Care!
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