By Ed Schneider on the Fourth Sunday of Easter:
Listen Here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/episodes/718115-april-22-2018-fourth-sunday-in-easter
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us always. Amen.
The Gospel tells us today that Jesus is our Good Shepherd, and we are his sheep. As today’s psalm tells us, he leads us to good waters, and makes us lie down in green pastures. But the metaphor of us being sheep is limited. Sheep are passive, and, so I’m told, rather dull, and I don’t mean dull as in boring.
But if we follow Jesus, then we can’t be passive. We can’t just say, “I believe in Jesus,” and then sit on our hands, waiting for the day we’re taken up into glory. Jesus gave us one commandment: we must love one another as he loves us. Love is not passive.
But love means sacrifice. And the writer of First John tells us today that we know love by Jesus’s example. He lays down his life for us; therefore, we’re to show that same love by laying down our own lives for others. But what does laying down our lives for other mean?
Well, in some cases it may mean literally dying for someone else. For example, we’ve heard of stories of mothers who starve themselves so that they can give their malnourished children extra food. But laying down our lives for others also means doing interior work. It means doing serious, probing self-examinations to learn how much psychological and emotional baggage we’re carrying and to what extent we’re inflicting that baggage on other people.
It means recognizing when we’re trying to control other people or situations for the sake of our own comfort level. It means not presuming to know what’s best for someone else. It means not presuming motives or jumping to conclusions about why people are poor, why they’re sick, or why they’re in prison. It means getting ourselves, our egos, out of Christ’s way, so that he has the space within us to transform us into his image, whatever that image is going to look like for each of us.
It means getting our egos out of the way so that Christ can use us as his hands, his feet, and his mouth to spread the gospel and bring healing to the world. Knowing all of this, we can now understand the connection in First John between showing love by showing down one’s life and John’s question: How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?
Yes, my friends, First John is admonishing us to put our money where our mouth is. As John wrote, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth, and in action. This admonishment is more forcefully said in James 1:22: Let’s be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. And in James 2:14-17: What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead!
In other words, we can say we believe and have faith in Jesus, but if we don’t live into a loving relationship with Jesus and reflect that love to others by helping them in their needs, then our belief and our faith mean nothing. Nothing! If our actions don’t match our words, then we’re hypocrites, people who wear pious masks, but whose actions speak otherwise.
Let’s remember what Jesus said in Matthew’s Gospel about a future time when he will be in our shepherd: When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory, all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people, one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. Jesus tells us he’ll welcome into his kingdom all those who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger and immigrant, clothed the naked, visited those in prison, and nursed the sick. He said that when they do these things for the least of those in his family, then they do these things for him.
Jesus wasn’t using a literary metaphor when he said they say they do these things for him. As Colossians reminds us, Christ holds everything together in him and through him. All things in heaven and earth were created through him and for him. In other words, Christ is in all, and through all.
But let’s not forget the goats. Jesus tells us he’ll condemn those who did not feed the hungry, did not give drink to the thirsty, drove away the strangers and immigrants, did not clothe the naked, ignored and imprisoned and left the sick to die. Oh, I can hear the goats crying, “But Lord, Lord, we thought we were doing what’s best by not feeding or clothing the poor, because we didn’t want to enable them and make them dependent on others! And because we believed poor people are inherently lazy and morally responsible for their own poverty, we wanted to encourage them to reform and carry their own weight! And we worked hard for our money, so it isn’t fair or reasonable to expect us to give it away to the indolent poor and to criminals. And why should we be responsible for helping the self-indulgent who made themselves sick by unhealthy lifestyles? Anyway, we have a responsibility to spend our money on ourselves and our families. Besides, didn’t you say, Lord, we shouldn’t throw our pearls before swine?”
And Jesus will say, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” When we follow Jesus as the Good Shephard, we are to give others the same unconditional, sacrificial love that he first shows us. We’re to get ourselves, our egos, our prejudices, our social philosophies, our baggage, out of the way, so that Christ can work through us for the good of the world.
But in our brokenness and myopia, even those who follow Jesus fail at times to love as he first loves us. I confess, I admit, I do. One year ago this month, April, I saw a homeless man in our parish hall after Mass. He sat alone, drinking his coffee, and staring at the table in front of him. I thought to talk with him, but I was distracted with altar guild duties. Much necessary busyness.
I saw a homeless man in the parish hall after Mass. He got more coffee, then sat down after looking through a box of food left out for such as him. I thought to talk with him, but it was pleasant to speak with friends. Laughter. Camaraderie. Banter.
I saw a homeless man in the parish hall after Mass. He sat alone, with his hood partially covering his eyes. He was thin, with several days of stubble on his chin. I thought to talk to him, but I cleaned up after coffee hour. Dishes. Tables. Trash.
I saw a homeless man in the parish hall after Mass. He sat alone, in a now almost empty room. He was motionless. He was quiet. I thought to talk to him, but I was tired, and in a hurry to go home. Lunch. Nap. Book.
I saw a homeless man in the parish hall after Mass. He was there when I left, sitting alone. He did nothing, said nothing. I thought to talk to him, but I chose not to acknowledge that Jesus sat there.
Let us not fail to see Jesus in the least of these. And let us not fail to love them, as Jesus first loves us. Amen.
By Fr. Tim Kroh on Third Sunday of Easter:
Listen Here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/episodes/704435-april-15-2018-third-sunday-of-easter
In the Name ✠ of the Crucified and Risen Savior. Amen.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ “
On the surface of this text, it seems like St. Luke is trying really hard to prove to us that the resurrection of Christ was real. He had a real body. He kept eating. He was hungry. You could touch him. So we can see in this seafood snack another assertion of the reality of Christ’s resurrection.
But there’s so much more here for us as well.
In the resurrection, Christ doesn’t do away with his old human body. He retains his body. It’s a glorified body, but it is the same body. He shows his scars to St. Thomas, in that window, over there. It eats fish. It’s hungry. The resurrected Christ was an embodied Christ, and that has so many implications for us, as we try to seek after a theology of the human body.
The redemption of humankind in Christ “hinges” on the flesh. God becomes human. This Christ, the Word-made-flesh, teaches us this: Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, attend to the stranger, bring in those who have been cast out. Christ bids us to attend to all of these souls and bodies, much as he attends to us, like a shepherd.
If we believe that Jesus of Nazareth is truly the Christ of God, then we have to think about all the implications of this embodied Saviour.
If God takes on a body, then all bodies are hallowed and holy, not fallen or inherently bad, but gifts from God which God makes even holier through Christ.
If God takes on a body, then all human bodies are equally hallowed and worthy of dignity. We should recognize Christ present in the bodies of all other human beings. We should discern Christ in them. We should discern Christ in the bodies of our sisters and brothers who are homeless. We should discern Christ in the bodies of people of all ages, skin colors, gender expressions. The implication of our collective sins, which we all know too well: racism, sexism, ageism, et cetera, is that all bodies and souls—for there is no real separation between the two, is there? All bodies and souls are places where the Risen Christ dwells.
So we see and discern the Risen Christ in the bodies of every human being. In the bodies of Trayvon Martin, Philando Castille, and Alton Sterling, and in the bodies of all those who serve as police and first responders. We should discern the Risen Christ in the bodies of those who live with Alzheimer’s; those who, because of their differing abilities, can not yet enter this sacred place to join us in prayer and fellowship, not yet.
God has a body – that of the Risen Christ – and now, now that that sacred body has ascended to the right hand of God to take his place in heaven, the body of Christ is still on earth, but in the form of each one of you, who have died with Christ in your baptisms and share in his resurrection. And also, don’t forget, that you are what you eat.
So if we should discern Christ in all these bodies, then of course we must discern Christ in our own body. We should learn to love God’s unique gift to us. It’s easy, though, to not love our bodies and to wish they were different. Pierre can attest to that when I was too short to light the Paschal candle earlier today. But this is the body God gave me, and I ought to love it and thank him for it. Think about the billions of dollars that are spent in the name of body hatred. Advertising tells us our bodies are wrong, and then provides us with a convenient solution, for a price. Body-shaming is a relatively new term for a very well established practice. By definition, body shaming is the action or practice of humiliating someone because of their body – anything to do with it. We are meant to repent of the sin of body shaming, and also stop body shaming ourselves, because Christ dwells in all of us. We recognize this in our baptism, and especially the final two vows: “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” and “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” Body shaming is obviously counter to each of those vows, and counter to Christian practice, and we ought to make every effort to do away with it, in our own lives, and the lives of others.
The redemption of humankind in Christ “hinges” on the flesh-ours and Christ’s. Why should we be surprised?
“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.” St. John reminds us of that in the Epistle: that we are God’s children. What a joy! And he continues: “What we do know is this: that when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” We will be like him. Apparently, as it is in this life, so it is wonderfully in the resurrection: We need something to eat, something to sustain us, something to nourish us. And guess what: so does the Risen Christ. He’s still hungry. Jesus is hungry. What is he hungry for? He is hungry for the true food of his kingdom: love, repentance, justice, forgiveness, peace, the end of all oppression, and the true recognition of the dignity of every human being. That’s what Christ is hungry for. Let us feed him with this true food. Amen