4th Sunday of Easter: "We Proclaim Healing!"
1 Peter 2:19-25
We are now on the 4th Sunday of Easter. It is a wonderfully glorious time in the Church, placed at such as time as this with the backdrop of this world pandemic crisis where no one is really sure about what lies ahead. It is a time where all of medical science resources, all of economic and political forces are corroborating in order to solve this situation. Yet, there seems to be no clear solution ahead.
But God is Sovereign, and the good news is that God reigns and He rules!
For four Sundays now, the Church proclaims life, joy, His presence, and today healing. This is what the Church is in the midst of what we face today.
I hope and pray that we do not detach and separate the power of the Easter message from the situation that we are in today. Every gospel truth is given as a weapon for us to use in our spiritual battles that rage in our midst every day. All of us are tempted and beset with fear, lack, sickness, fright, despair, uncertainty. Just like the followers of Jesus who were confronted with Christ’s death on the cross, the disillusionment that they had was transformed to delight when Christ appeared to them. Jesus stayed on earth for 40 days, until the day He ascended to heaven to sit on the right hand of the Most High. So too with this, we also want to have these 40 days with Jesus, a living encounter and experience with the living Lord, the risen Christ.
Nehemiah proclaimed to the people, “You are art the Lord. You hast made the heavens, the heaven of heavens with all their host, the earth and all that is in it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them and the heavenly host bows downs before You.” There is great hope in our lives!
When we recite the creed, there is a line that refers to Jesus Christ, as God the Son who was born of the Virgin Mary, He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried…. This line links us up to the fact that Jesus did not only die but He suffered. But why? He did not do anything wrong. He could have just died. Wasn’t our sins atoned for? What was the suffering all about? Why did He had to go to that brutal torture of suffering?
Suffering and pain are the physical consequences of sin. Suffering and the accompanying pain represents all the dysfunction, all of the evil of humanity brought about because of man’s separation from the love of God. Jesus was bruised, tortured, scourged, and crowned with thorns. All of human wickedness was put on Him. He suffered because of these atrocities, abandoned by His friends, forsaken, betrayed, falsely accused especially by religious leaders. All of these, Jesus took to the cross where He died. He died because of man’s injustice, greed, evil, and gross wickedness.
But, God raised Him in love, mercy, and forgiveness. The first words of Christ on the cross was, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do!” “Forgive them” are the words of life; the words of suffering. It was because of this suffering that caused healing to come upon us; from the blood that gushed out and flowed, life flowed and healing flowed.
In Isaiah 53:4-5, it says, “He suffered and endured great pain for us, but we thought his suffering was punishment from God. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” In 1 Peter 2:24, it says “Christ himself carried our sins in his body to the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. It is by his wounds that you have been healed.” By Jesus’ suffering, healing flowed, and this suffering is what we proclaim today by the Church. It is the healing from God, the Savior of our souls.
Jesus accomplishes this healing as He comes to us today as the Good Shepherd – to seek and to save those who are lost.
We come to John 10 on this 4th Sunday; we are twenty-two days now in Easter. Peter said that we have been healed by the wounds that Christ bore for our sins so that we can now go back to the Savior and Shepherd of our souls. This day, we proclaim the Good Shepherd, the day we commemorate the life of Christ.
John 10 is placed in the context of the previous chapter of John 9 which provides a background for our gospel today when the religious leaders judged the man who was formerly blind from birth, but was healed and restored to his sight by Jesus. Religion was supposed to bring men to the saving power of God, but the Pharisees and leaders condemned the man and put him out of the congregation. Jesus now comes with this portion of our gospel about the shepherd and the sheep.
In Palestine, the word "shepherd" is an occupation which was synonymous to selfless love, sincerity, commitment, and sacrificial service for his flock. He sought out his lost sheep. He risked his life to save it. He made sure the sheep was given the best grazing area, the green pastures that will feed them.
This is our gospel today. Jesus gives us two illustrations of the shepherd and the sheepfold. The first illustration shows the ownership and the leadership of the shepherd. John 10:1, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber.” A robber makes his own way because he does not own the sheep. The true shepherd enters by the door – by the means that God intended and prescribed. He does not do his own way but according to how God prescribed it to enable the sheep to be helped. Men will try to design their own means of dealing with the problems of mankind. Parents decide on their own how to take care of their children based on methods that do not come from God like beating the child and punishment rather than discipline. Jesus reaches out using God’s way. As the shepherd, He desires the best for His flock. God’s way is always the best.
Sheep by nature follow the shepherd who knows them. On their own, they could not find their way. Strangers will try to lead them, but they will not follow. The sheep knows the voice of the true shepherd. Do we hear the voice of our Shepherd? Do we know the voice of God? Do we know the voice of Jesus? We only know the voice of the Shepherd by having an intimacy with Him. It is when we come into an intimate presence with God will we learn His voice for He knows us and calls us out by our name.
The second illustration shown in the gospel about the shepherd and the sheepfold is about guardianship. Jesus is the true Guardian. Not only is Jesus the Owner and Leader, but also the Guardian who protects. True Guardianship seeks only the true entrance. A true shepherd sleeps at the only entrance to the sheepfold. Because of the way the sheep pen is constructed, wild animals and thieves cannot get inside except through the entrance. There the shepherd stays using a rod or club and his pointed staff as his weapons. Jesus is the Door; He is the Guardian of the flock. No thief or robber enters without being confronted by Him first.
The heart of the message is very simple. Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, comes according to the plan and purpose of God to be the One who will protect us, His sheep, from the thief who steals, kills and destroys our lives. Christ brings the true life to us - an abundant life.
Easter season is so profuse with the abundance of God. Jesus came so that we may have life abundantly. Again, I said that I hope and pray that we should not detach the teachings of Easter from our daily lives. Bring it after the Mass, after our devotions, and after our spiritual communion today. Easter is full of delectable treats that will make our spirits soar and strong and our hearts sing with joy. The treats bring forth abundant life: the intimate times of prayer; the exciting world of the Bible; the healing balm of the Sacraments; the wise teaching of Church leaders who care for their people; and the Feast of Faith which is the Eucharist. All of these provide an abundance of savory nourishment that most of us usually take for granted.
During the first centuries of the church, during the time of the most severe persecution of Christianity, some areas of the church celebrated the Easter vigil and the newly baptized came forward to receive their first holy communion. There was another cup on the altar besides the one containing the Lord’s precious blood, and it was filled with milk and honey. It was a reminder that having passed through the waters of baptism, they had crossed the Jordan and entered into the Promised Land.
Never mind that they could not worship openly for fear of being dragged off to be thrown to the lions. After years in the desert, they were bound and determined to enjoy the fruits and the Good Shepherd’s pasture land - the Eucharist, the Word, the prayers, the Sacraments. All of these are the nourishment that did them good despite the danger of persecution. This reminds us that we can have peace in the midst of strife and confusion as they experienced before. They had abundance in the midst of lack. They had peace and security to be in the sheepfold of the Good Shepherd.
Jesus went through all the great suffering not just so that we could drag ourselves through life, barely surviving through life’s struggles. Rather He says: “I came that they might have life and have it to the more abundantly full” (John 10:10). He has the rod and the staff to lead and to take care of us.
Christ, as our Good Shepherd, prepared an abundant life for us. He is the Good Shepherd that leads us in green pastures, that leads us beside quiet waters. He is the Good Shepherd that restores our soul and who leads us to paths of righteousness. He is the Good Shepherd who prepares a table for us in the midst of our enemies. He is the Good Shepherd who will give us the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit. He is the Good Shepherd who will give us the overflowing cup of blessing that goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives. He is the Good Shepherd that will make us dwell with Him in His house forever.
Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd. He is the Healer of the souls of men.