Good Shepherd Sunday

4th Sunday of Easter  

3rd May 2020

 Good Shepherd Sunday

 

While walking last Saturday morning I noticed that my knees were feeling quite normal again as a result of regular exercise. Prior to this they usually felt crackly and stiff, like rusty hinges on a door!!

I thought of a term used in the healing circles, ‘self regulation’; a process whereby conditions are created which enable the body to heal itself.

Just as we hear in the song, ‘these boots are made for walking’,  it’s also a fact that feet are made for standing, walking, running.  In this present modern age, the habit of naturally allowing our bodies exercise every day has lessened dramatically because of changes in lifestyle. With the ever increasing reliance on cars etc for transport, changes in work practices, changes in lifestyle in the home and the neighbourhood; the poor body is gradually becoming redundant. People are increasingly relying on eyes, mouth, ears and fingers, for work, leisure and life in the home. This can lead to a disconnect between the body and the mind. The mind thinking it knows best, oftentimes ignores the cry of the body & both suffers the consequences. 

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This Sunday, Good Shepherd Sunday, is a lovely reminder of another form of connection in our lives; namely that of a loving, caring, challenging presence with us all the time , the ‘Divine Presence’. Part of each person’s spiritual journey is to consciously or unconsciously  immerse ourselves into the slipstream of this Divine Energy. I include the word ‘unconsciously’, because most people who might deny God’s presence, are still, to my mind, living the ‘Godly way’,  as is evidenced in their love, care and commitment to all that is good.

Last 29th April we celebrated the life of a remarkable woman, St Catherine of Siena, The context in which Catherine developed her theology and spirituality was self-knowledge. Even though centuries later she was declared a Doctor of the Church, she never formally studied theology; yet she was a deeply perceptive and wise woman, much sought after as a peacemaker & reconciler. In the context of ‘Knowing God’, she suggest that the  first theological question is not “Who is God?” but “Who am I?”.

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Within the Christian tradition we believe that every person is a ‘Spiritual Being’. It is part of ‘who I am’. Coming to a conscious awareness of ‘God journeying with us’. is an invitation extended to all people.

Saint Augustine grappled with this sense of identity during his younger carefree  years. He stubbornly resisted the Divine  inner call, opting instead  to indulged in ‘the good life’.

He writes life

Late have I loved you,

beauty so old and so new:

late have I loved you.

And see, you were within

and I was in the external world

and sought you there,

and in my unlovely state

I plunged into those lovely created things

which you made.

You were with me,

and I was not with you”.

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Later, after having entered into a life of communion with the Lord, he writes in his Confessions,

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord,

and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

 

 

A difficulty arises sometimes with religious practice when our relationship with God is not nurtured in a wholesome way. Rather than being in touch with the living God, our faith can be founded on a distorted notion of God, and the ways of God.

Rather than enhancing our humanity, our religious belief, can thwart and stifle our lives. I remember Fr Leo, who ministered here in the parish for many years, comparing this form of faith to a potted plant sitting on the trunk of the tree. It may look nice, but there is not a natural bond between the two. Because we are spiritual beings by nature the love of God naturally resonates with the soul of the person. Our calling is to entrust ourselves in God’s embrace.

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In the First Reading read during Mass today, Peter is so driven by this new awareness of ‘God with him’, that he enters into the public arena and fearlessly proclaims the Good News. We’re told that many people were won over by his preaching, and commit themselves to a new way of life.

But the means through people come to God can be so different. It’s a quest, a spiritual journey, a ‘search for the Holy Grail’.

During the past week we read in the Acts of the Apostles of two individuals who embraced the Christian Way starting from very different vantage points.

In Acts 8:26 –40, we read of Philip encountering the Ethiopian Official in his chariot on a desert road in Gaza. The officer is reading a passage from the Book of Isaiah, and when he asked Philip to explain what the passage of scripture meant, it was obvious that his heart was already open to receiving the ‘Good News’: after his sharing with Philip, he asks to be Baptised.

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On the other hand in Acts 9:1 - 20 Paul of Tarsus, who was known as Saul at the time of his conversion; while journeying to Damascus in the act of persecuting Christians had a dramatic experience. He was mysteriously knocked to the ground, blinded, and hears a voice saying  ‘Paul, Paul, why are you persecuting me’. After his traumatic encounter with unknown forces, he was finally brought to Damascus. There he meets a disciple named Ananias, who brings him healing. This life changing series of events finally leads to Pauls opting to radically live the Christian way.

 

So on this Good Shepherd Sunday we are reminded that God is ever present to humankind.

Allow ourselves to feel that loving support.

Vocatus atque

Non vocatus

Deus aderit.

{Bidden or unbidden, God is Present}

 

Erasmus 

 

Finally, during this present time, with the radical shutdown in worldwide travel etc, we are witnessing the planet slowly self-regulating. The skies are clearer, and the collapse in the hectic pace of life, is enabling the natural world to enjoy a less polluted environment This is a precious time to reflect and realise that:

 

Just as the Mind is part of the Body,

Just as the Human is linked to the Divine,

so too

the Global community in reliant on the goodness of the Planet.

We are a partnership

 

If we choose to turn to backs to the ‘Cry of the Planet’, and assume that we are its masters; we will suffer the consequence.

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An Planetary unrest  that is evidenced all over the world in recent years  in the form of extreme weather, is a stark reminder of the dire need to heal the rift that has caused a disconnect between ourselves and the good earth, for our own sake. We are invited to enter into a new Covenant with: 

‘Our Common Home

 [who is] like a sister with whom we share our life

 and a beautiful mother

 who opens her arms to embrace us’.

Pope Francis:  Laudato Si 


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