While sitting in the waiting areas of airports, I listen to all the names which are announced through out the concourses asking this person and that to go there or back to the ticket counter. I have never heard my name! I assume that when people hear their names they imagine there is something wrong; I would too. On the other hand, I have never heard my name called announcing that I had won a prize of some kind.
Well that’s not totally true. Twenty years ago a group of Jesuits was celebrating a tribal powwow on the Rose Bud Reservation in South Dakota. The Lakota dancers were presenting their native artistry with chant and movements. At a lull the public address announcer declared that the next event was an “Honor Dance” in honor of one of the Jesuit Fathers, and then I heard my name. Well that is very nice except until I learned that the person honored has to pay the drummers twenty dollars. My Jesuit companions knew this and thought it would be fun to see me have to pay up.
As we move through these Easter days, celebrating the Lord’s Resurrection and our own, we can pray with the sound of our names by which we were baptized and the name by which God calls to us in our prayer. We can pray with the call that announces, not bad news or something wrong, but the call of the Good News and how all is right between God and ourselves. Jesus has paid the price for our being free to dance and chant and be honored in His sight, with His grace.
We are listening to the growth within the early Church as told through the Acts of the Apostles. Our First Reading for this liturgy is an address by Peter immediately after the recounting of the Pentecost experience. We do not hear his entire speech, but enough to know that his listeners are moved to ask a good question. Peter confronts them with the reality that the One they crucified is actually the Anointed, the Christ. Their question seems to flow from a sense that they did not know this and “Now what are we suppose to do?”
The conclusion is the same which ends most of Peters proclamations; “Repent and be baptized.” He added that they had a chance right then to remove themselves from the corrupt generation which had resisted the preaching of Jesus Himself. Many became members of the Church that day.
Their being baptized, as it is true with us, is an emersion into the “name of Jesus”. It is the identity by which we come to know and accept ourselves. Our perfection, primarily, is not our gaining an image of ourselves by our perfect actions, but by our being in Him. The “corrupt” regains its dignity by its being reborn, or recreated in the “Incorruptible”. Once this was accepted by Peter’s listeners, many came into Christ and so into the community of those who knew themselves from within and not by their outward actions.
Now, as Peter would say, hear me out. Those who entered through the “gate” of baptism into Christ, did do the good things such as taking care of those in need and healing the sick. They themselves were not good, because they did these graceful works, but they did them because Christ was in them and they were in Him. We too become attractive in Christ by how we live and do His deeds. Our actions become a more brilliant argument for Christ than any well-expressed verbal presentations. Peter’s words were powerful, but how he and the others lived their words and their identities moved the watchers into the early community of believers.
The Gospel consists of the verses following immediately the confrontation with the Pharisees about the curing of the man who had been born blind. Jesus had agreed with them at the very end of the previous chapter that indeed, they were blind and had failed to see who He was, to and for them.
John presents Jesus’ using a figure of speech. Jesus is the “Gate”. Those who enter through that Gate will be “shepherds” for the flock. Those who pretended to be the leaders before Jesus, (namely these very same Pharisees), were self-serving destroyers of the flock.
What we hear is a stronger statement about them. He calls them thieves and robbers. Jesus declares Himself to be the New Shepherd of the People of God and those who follow Him will learn His voice as well as the voices of the “stranger”. Jesus says that He, as shepherd knows each of us by name and calls to us individually to the abundant life.
In the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection narratives, Jesus came calling people by their names: Mary Magdala in the garden of Resurrection and Thomas who had doubted. Jesus went out calling to His flock whether they were on the road to Emmaus or out fishing in the dark. Somehow they came to recognize His voice, not so much by actual sound, but by how His voice sounded inside them. This then is the beginning of discernment of God’s calling.
The Pharisees guided the “Flock of God” by externally telling them what exactly they must do to be good. This was controlling and all on the external. The people had to listen to the words, but not the interior voice. The Voice of the Good Shepherd touches something deeper within us. The “name” is more than an appellation or title. Jesus calls to something of Himself which is buried within us. It resounds as an unexplainable harmony within us. External conformity is just that and not discernment. Conformity is immediate, instinctual, and fearful. John presents the Pharisees as “strangers” who forced conformity with a whip of fear.
Learning the Voice of Jesus takes reflection, time, and confrontation with our egoistic voices. We learn what disharmony sounds like and the necessity for approval which it demands. As we say, the bottom line is this (and it actually is for this Reflection): the relationship with God or the “call” is based on who God says we are and not upon what we have to do. What we do will then be a reflection of who we are.
“The Good shepherd is risen! He who laid down his life for his sheep, who died for his flock, he is risen, Alleluia.”
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook