Monday, April 27, 2015

Opportunities to Love God

This week my Spiritual Direction class assigned (among others) this Scripture passage for meditation:  Jn 21:15-17, wherein Jesus three times asks Peter if he loves Him, and three times Peter answers affirmatively.  And then, after Peter’s response, Jesus says back:  “Feed My sheep.”
Praying and reflecting on this passage, of course I saw the obvious key instruction to Peter:  Lead my Church.  I also considered that Peter’s thrice affirmation of love countered his thrice denials of Jesus.  With the reading of the Liturgy of the Hours on Sunday, however, I think I heard a further insight meant for me.
I am the good shepherd.  I know my own --- by which I
mean, I love them --- and my own know me.  In plain words:
those who love me are willing to follow me.  
These words of our Lord imply a test for yourselves.  Ask
yourselves whether you belong to his flock, whether you
know him, whether the light of his truth shines in your minds.
I assure you that it is not by faith that you will come to know
him, but by love; not by mere conviction, but by action.
From a homily by St. Gregory
With those words I saw the conversation between Jesus and Peter in a new light.  The words of love they exchanged need not have been said; both understood their love of each other.  Jesus’ response, however, was a step forward:  Since you do love me, Peter, show it!  Act it!  Feed my sheep!  Sunday’s Gospel about The Good Shepherd re-iterated that point.  Love in words is emotion.  Love in action is true love, commitment.
Time spent in the church is necessary.  Time in prayer is necessary.  Time reading and studying is necessary.  To love Jesus you must come to know Him.  But once you reach a point of knowledge and love, then action is required.
I had breakfast with a friend again last Saturday.  Retired, like me, he attends mass every day, goes on walks, and has a small group of social friends in addition to his family.  I had never really compared my life to his before, but I now realize that I have many, many more people who are part of my life, people I meet with, people I socialize with, close friends, and people who cross my path or even seek me out each day.  Compared to my breakfast friend, I have so many more opportunities to “Do Something!” as Jesus told Peter.  Every person who comes into my life, who crosses my path, is an opportunity to love Jesus, with a love in action.
How many people cross your path each day, each week?  I’ve written many thoughts here about our pose-Christian culture and what we can do about it.  Pray?  Certainly.  But, by the example of the Good Shepherd and the admonitions to Peter, we are clearly being told we must do more.
Opportunities:  people who cross our paths.  Do something!  Not many crossing your path?  Then create opportunities; get out and meet more people.  I wrote last November about the man I met in the bar at the airport.  God gives us many opportunities to show our love for Him.  Unsure how?  Spend ten minutes each day in silent prayer asking for and listening for God’s call.  He will give you opportunities to show your love for Him.
All we need to do is be open to His small, still voice.  He wishes us to feed His sheep.

1 comment:

  1. In a homily yesterday Father recounted how he visited Ireland during a religious trip, and several of their group spent some time with shepherds. He said what he noted is that the sheep were not pushed from behind, or herded, but the shepherd LED them. The shepherd calls out to them, raises his staff in the air, keeps calling and starts walking, and the sheep just follow.

    I was reading a blog recently where someone told the story of their own visit with shepherds, I think when they were in Bosnia on a trip to Medjugorie. Anyway, in the village they were in, the villagers kept all the sheep in a common pen at night, hundreds of sheep. In the morning, each shepherd would come to the pen and call out, and his own sheep would rise and gather and follow him out the open gate. And all the sheep would do this, ignoring other calls, and following only their own shepherd. When one visitor asked, how do you know which sheep are yours, the shepherd answered in broken English, puzzled at the question, "The sheeps know."

    Some other people commenting on that same blog had raised sheep, and their comments were that sheep are D-U-M-B, dumb. Being called a sheep by Jesus is not flattering. It implies being absolutely clueless and vulnerable and at the mercy of every more clever animal there is. Dumb. Walk right into wolves. Easily victimized. Easily lost. Absolutely clueless. Not even wary of danger. The only safety for prey animals like sheep is sticking with the flock and following the shepherd. We are not clever when matched against the enemy. And the enemy is always prowling for that dumb sheep that leaves the fold because the grass looks really tasty on that next hill.

    Jesus is telling us, come to know My voice, you sheep. He was using a metaphor the people of His time and location understood well. So your point is well taken: We can't know the voice of our Shepherd if we never listen to Him in prayer, in Scripture, or in the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. We see this in our world today. Many, many people don't know His voice, they aren't His sheep (yet?) and so follow the voices of other shepherds that lead them astray to where there is no food, to where the wolves are waiting to snatch them and devour them.

    To me, Peter was, of course, as you note, being given the role of the shepherd. He is not the hired hand. Jesus expects Peter to lead and care for the sheep in the same manner Jesus Himself tends the sheep, of course, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit. Peter is to love them with the same love Jesus Himself has for the sheep. Peter is to make sure the sheep are fed, the lambs are fed, and cared for, and kept safe. So we follow the teachings of the Church, and listen closely. We're sheep. And the duty of our shepherds in the Church is to lead us to our heavenly home.
    God bless. ~ Fran