4th Monday of Easter
12 May 2014
Chapter ten of John's Gospel opens with the solemn: "Amen amen I say to you." Jesus is alerting his hearers to listen because what he is about to say is important.
The image of a shepherd is problematic today because almost none of us have experience with sheep or shepherds of the non-metaphorical type. Thus, the image of the Good Shepherd has been sentimentalized beyond all reason, a sentimentalization that the paintings of Thomas Kinkaid and his ilk have done nothing to diminish. Good shepherds do care for those entrusted to them. But, caring for is not coddling. Caring for is not spoiling. Caring for is not giving an award for simply showing up. Caring for does not mean undiluted self-affirmation. At times the shepherd must be firm, demanding and exclusive. Those who care for others must learn that the weak, the lost, those in need require compassion. But, they also require firm limits and at times non-negotiable insistence. Sometimes the one in authority, the one holding the position of shepherd, must be unyielding despite the whining, weeping, or childishness of the sheep. Jesus is giving a message of exclusivity here. "I am the gate for the sheep" does not appear to give a lot of leeway for equivocation or alternate interpretations.
As usual, when faced with preaching on John's Gospel, I turn to Jesuit Father Stanley Marrow's work. Commenting on this chapter he notes that Jesus' "I AM" statements make a necessary claim to exclusivity. The problem with what is called "the intolerance of the revelation" is that those who hear it may choose to appoint themselves the arbiters of who can and cannot receive the gift. Sometimes they forget that they themselves are "the undeserving recipients of an unmerited gift" and do not have the right to determine who merits or does not merit the gift.
Stanley comments on the final line of the gospel, "I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly" as follows. To have life abundantly is to have it without limit, without the threat of termination, and without definitive severance by death. The life that Jesus promises is not mere survival or existence without end, but the eternal life that all those who believe in him possess. The exclusivity of Jesus' revelation is what allows us to escape the lure of those who claim to offer us better, more attractive or more genuine life. The exclusivity of Jesus' revelation is the proof that the sentiment on the pathetic bumper sticker, "He Who Has the Most Toys When He Dies Wins" is the ultimate lie.
The only thing these photos have in common is that they were taken in Australia. I am going through my photo files and culling. There is going to be a huge input from June to September when I'm in France and Chad.
A lone surfer at the end of his day.
Opera masks in Sydney.
Vegetables in Melbourne
A still life on Royal Parade in Melbourne
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD