The Shepherd’s Patience

Fourth Sunday of Easter

In today’s language, patience seems to be attributed to the passive, to the old and to children; for passive people seem not to care nor react immediately, older people seem to give way to the young, and children seem to be learning what they see in adults. However, the virtue of patience is not about passivity. It is so active that it allows others to grow and makes good use of the little sufferings and inconveniences that one experiences for the good of others, for the glory of God, and for personal growth. St. Peter proclaims this very clearly: If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God…. For…. When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly (1 Pt 2:20-25).

Let shepherds be our example of patient people. Shepherds would watch over the sheep 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In early times, the sheepfold was an enclosure or pen for the shelter of the sheep. In the sheepfold, groups of sheep of different owners were sheltered. The gate was small passage that only the shepherd and one sheep could pass. At night a shepherd would sleep across the gate, so that if a sheep would go out, it would pass through the body of the shepherd. Taking the sheep out for pasture became so personal that every sheep would pass through the hands of the shepherd, because only those that recognized the shepherd’s voice would come out and follow him. The shepherd then would walk in front of the sheep, and call them by their names, and they would follow.

These are the figures that Jesus uses for us today: the gate and the Shepherd. Jesus proclaims Himself as the Good Shepherd as well as the Gate to the sheepfold. He knows us and calls us by name, allows us to pass through His loving hands, and calls us to follow Him, so that we can eat at the table He has prepared for us. In Him we pass through the gate of the sacraments, and hopefully receive the sacraments worthily; we pass through the gate of our responsibilities, and hopefully perform them religiously; we pass through works of peace and reconciliation with those we have wronged and with other people’s work to bring peace and reconciliation, and hopefully many would respond; we pass through the gate of caring for the environment, and hopefully avoid abuses and do our share in preserving nature’s balance; we pass through the gate of service, and hopefully serve His people lovingly; we pass through the gate of the ministries of the Church, and hopefully get involved cheerfully, so that we may grow in our spiritual life and allow others to grow also.

Let us not disregard, though, what Jesus said of the unbelievers: whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber…. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy (cf. Jn 10:1-10). So, let us watch out for the following: those who take away the divinity of Christ and lead us astray, those who do not respect the Eucharist and the Church and lead us to mere worldly interests, those who disregard Mary as the Mother of Jesus and Mother of Christians, those who lead us even to disregard the example of saints all together, and those who selfishly live for themselves only and lead us to think that there is no life or judgment after death. For us, Jesus came to this world, so that those who believe and walk in His ways might have life and have it abundantly.

So, let us renew our promises at baptism, as the Acts of the Apostles encourages us, and, having been redeemed by Jesus, we may participate in the church’s activities and be involved in her ministries, especially to the needy. In his reflection regarding Everyone’s Call to Be a Saint (Holiness Consists in “Making Our Own His Attitudes, His Thoughts, His Conduct), Pope Benedict said:  I would like to invite you to open yourselves to the action of the Holy Spirit, who transforms our life, to be…. pieces of the great mosaic of holiness that God is creating in history, so that the Face of Christ will shine in the fullness of its brilliance. Let us not be afraid to look on high, to the height of God; let us not be afraid that God will ask too much of us, but let us be guided in all our daily actions by his Word, even if we feel that we are poor, inadequate, sinners: He will be the one to transform us according to his love (Vatican City, April 13, 2011).

Let the Eucharist then strengthen us, so that as His precious possession, we can generously observe His commands and the commands of the Church to bring peace to the world.

 

5-11-14

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