Weekday Gospel Reflection

Monday in the Fourth Week of Easter

John 10:1-10 - World English Bible

Jesus told the religious leaders:

1 "Most certainly, I tell you, one who doesn't enter by the door into the sheep fold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But one who enters in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. 4 Whenever he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 They will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him; for they don't know the voice of strangers." 6 Jesus spoke this parable to them, but they didn't understand what he was telling them.

7 Jesus therefore said to them again, "Most certainly, I tell you, I am the sheep's door. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn't listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters in by me, he will be saved, and will go in and go out, and will find pasture. 10 The thief only comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly."

John 10 began the Good Shepherd discourse, a dialogue Jesus had with the religious leaders. In these passages, he employed many images used the profession of the shepherd: the shepherd himself, his call, the corral for housing the sheep at night (sheep fold) and the gate to the corral. Jesus identified himself with many of these images to describe, not only his relationship with his followers, but the legitimacy of that relationship.

Controversy over a healing ignited the discourse. Jesus accused the leaders of sin, the lack of vision to see God working in the world through his Son (John 9:39-41). Then, he shifted from the spiritual blindness of the leaders to their status among the people. By use of a parable, he undercut their legitimacy, implying they were thieves. Against that charge, he painted the true leader as a shepherd, a popular image for YHWH (Jeremiah 53:6) and the ideal king, David (Psalm 78:70-72).

At this point, let us investigate how shepherds tended their flocks. Modern techniques of the shepherding used dogs to scare sheep (running and barking) and to corral the flock from behind. An ancient shepherd in the Middle East, however, treated the animals in his care as pets, giving them individual names and care, and led them by walking in front of the flock and by using a unique call they could associate with him. Ancient shepherds would combine flocks in a corral at night, then take turns watching the sheep so their fellow shepherds could sleep. At the shepherd's call in the morning, his sheep would exit through the gate, leaving the other sheep to await their leader's call.

With this background in mind, we can now understand the language Jesus used. Only the shepherd could legitimately enter the sheep gate, call to them and lead them to pasture. Anyone besides the shepherd who wanted to lead was a usurper, a thief. In the context of the controversy from John 9, Jesus clearly questioned the leaders claim to authority, replacing their's with his own. The mantle of divine and Davidic authority lay with him; he was the only one who could enter the corral (i.e., Israel), call to the flock (with his teaching) and lead the faithful.

In 10:7-10, Jesus described himself as the sheep gate, the "door" to the corral. He was the only true conduit to the Father and the only means to eternal life. Others who claimed such authorities "stole" the faithful. As a result, those who followed the Christ would find life, but those who clung to the religious leaders would only find death and destruction.

How is Jesus your "door" to life?

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Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Easter

John 10:22-30 - World English Bible

22 It was the Feast of the Dedication at Jerusalem. 23 It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in Solomon's porch. 24 The Jews therefore came around him and said to him, "How long will you hold us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."

25 Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you don't believe. The works that I do in my Father's name, these testify about me. 26 But you don't believe, because you are not of my sheep, as I told you. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give eternal life to them. They will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of my Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one."

During the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah), the religious leaders asked Jesus if he were the Messiah. He communicated his identity clearly through his "signs," but they didn't believe. And that was the point of this passage; belief was a calling from God, not a deduction from evidence. While many of the leaders might have agreed with Jesus in principle, they did not place their faith in HIM. Their skepticism cut them off from a relationship with the Christ and the result of that relationship: eternal life. But the Lord took his relationship with the Father to the next step. He not only did the works of the Father, he was one with the Father and, implicitly, shared that unity with his followers (through the Spirit). Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theology call the unity between God and humanity "deifying grace" (Union with God does not mean our identity becomes synonymous with God, or is lost in a greater reality, like the Buddhist notion of "Nirvana", but in the sense that God reaches down, destroys the barriers between and gives us intimacy with him.)

How have experienced union with God?

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Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Easter

John 12:44-50 - World English Bible

44 Jesus cried out and said, "Whoever believes in me, believes not in me, but in him who sent me. 45 He who sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in the darkness. 47 If anyone listens to my sayings, and doesn't believe, I don't judge him. For I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 He who rejects me, and doesn't receive my sayings, has one who judges him. The word that I spoke, the same will judge him in the last day. 49 For I spoke not from myself, but the Father who sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. 50 I know that his commandment is eternal life. The things therefore which I speak, even as the Father has said to me, so I speak."

What is the power of God's word? For a moment, think of God as an army general who gives a command. That order makes it way down the chain of command; the men who receive it put it into action. If the power of the imperative creates action on the battlefield, how much more will the word of God have an effect. It creates life!

The notion of command lay in the background of this passage. The Father ordered his Son to go into the world. Those who accepted the word would share in eternal life, for obedience to the command brought intimacy with God. Those who rejected the order to believe in the Son rejected the command and its source, the Father. Hence, he said in 12:48b: "The word that I spoke, the same will judge him in the last day."

Like many other passages in John's gospel, Jesus wove in the metaphor of light and darkness. His presence and ministry "enlightened" a dark world. His message brought new insight; his "signs" brought a new hope. For John, the Christ came into the world, not to proclaim a new political reality, but something much deeper, a new spiritual reality, one based upon union with the Father.

How have you listened to God's word this week?

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Thursday in the Fourth Week of Easter

John 13:16-20 - World English Bible

Jesus told his followers:

16 Most certainly I tell you, a servant is not greater than his lord, neither one who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 18 I don't speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen. But that the Scripture may be fulfilled, 'He who eats bread with me has lifted up his heel against me.' 19 From now on, I tell you before it happens, that when it happens, you may believe that I AM. 20 Most certainly I tell you, he who receives whomever I send, receives me; and he who receives me, receives him who sent me."

In John 13, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, then commented on its significance. He gave the example; now his followers must do likewise since he had a higher stature than those who learned from him. The lesson he tried to teach was simple: lead through serving. Such leadership would give blessing by inspiring others through humility. Of course, the self-absorbed would not be affected by such leadership style; one in his company (Judas Iscariot) would turn against him (quoting Psalm 41:9 in 13:18b). He prophesied (almost as an aside) concerning his fate at the hands of Judas to reinforce their faith in him as I AM. Then he returned to the thrust of his teaching: make service the hallmark of the disciple's evangelization. Implicitly, if the follower told others about the Christ in the spirit of humility and care (the way Jesus attracted him), he would advance not only the message but the presence of the Son in the world, and his Father.

How do you serve others in the name of Christ?

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Friday in the Fourth Week of Lent

John 14:1-6 - World English Bible

Jesus said to his disciples:

1 "Don't let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many homes. If it weren't so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be there also. 4 Where I go, you know, and you know the way."

5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going. How can we know the way?"

6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on, you know him, and have seen him."

In his Last Supper discourse, Jesus spoke of his destiny and that of his followers. Even though he would soon leave them (in his Passion), they would know the way to him through their faith. Because of their trust in him, they would survive the anguish of his death and would delight in the awe of his Resurrection. In faith, they would anticipate his Second Coming. What was the basis of that trust? Jesus answered that question by pointing to himself; he was the way to the Father, the truth the Father communicated to humanity and the life of the Father he would share with his followers. In short, he revealed the Father; he was the tangible manifestation of God on earth.

How has your faith in Christ allowed you to see God in your world?

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Saturday in the Fourth Week of Easter

John 14:7-14 - World English Bible

Jesus told his followers:

7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on, you know him, and have seen him."

8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us."

9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you such a long time, and do you not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father. How do you say, 'Show us the Father?' 10 Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I tell you, I speak not from myself; but the Father who lives in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me; or else believe me for the very works' sake. 12 Most certainly I tell you, he who believes in me, the works that I do, he will do also; and he will do greater works than these, because I am going to my Father. 13 Whatever you will ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you will ask anything in my name, I will do it."

"If you ask anything in my name, I will do it."

How many of us are tempted to take the words of Jesus at face value and pray to win the lottery? Deep down, most of us have faced the temptation of the quick fix, but, as the joke goes, how many of us are willing to buy the lottery ticket? And that's the rub.

In his Last Supper discourse, Jesus spoke to his followers about revelation. They could only see the Father through him. He and the Father were one, united in purpose and will. So, as a corollary, if they saw Jesus speak and act, they saw the Father speak and act in the world. Because these "works" alone many placed their trust in the Lord. A few believed he and the Father did have unity. Those few would do the works of the Lord and greater, because they were united with him through their trust. Jesus and his followers would perform works meant to bring others closer to God.

And that's the problem. Are we willing to ask for the power to do God's will, so you can help bring others to Christ? Are we willing to purchase the heavenly lottery ticket?

In the petitions of your daily prayer, do you ask God for the power to evangelize?

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