Thursday, 14 November 2019

ST. JOHN 10: 1-6


One of the attributes of St. John is that of theologian, indeed he is sometimes referred to as ‘the’ theologian.

Theology is more than the study of the divine, or the words of the divine. At its core theology must be an encounter with, a communion of love with, a contemplating of, and seeking understanding, in relationship with the Most Holy Trinity and all the Holy Trinity reveals, gives to us. Foundationally theology begins with contemplation of the Incarnate One and attentiveness to every word He speaks, everything He teaches, living in relationship with Him and through Him with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

It is to follow Jesus, to live the Gospel with our lives without compromise.

Yes, some within the Church are called to study and become ‘theologians’, nonetheless all the Baptized are called to live theologically, that is in relationship with the Most Holy Trinity.

Without, as it were, skipping a beat, Jesus continues to reveal more of the truth, the reality of who He is, of His redemptive mission, as He continues to speak, to teach, in the presence of not only the people who witnessed, heard about, the healing of the man born blind, but in the presence too of those who have chosen to be His enemies, the Pharisees.

This is the extensiveness, or more accurately the limitlessness of His love. He loves and reaches out not just to those who follow Him, accept Him and His teaching, but those too who adamantly refuse to listen, accept, follow.

Such is the foundation of all human hope. Not some theory or philosophy but Someone: Jesus.

“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.” [v.1]

 A sheepfold was an enclosure made with stone walls of a height to prevent the sheep from leaping over the enclosure. It was a place the flock would be kept during the night as protection from marauding predators such as wolves. The shepherd would close the gate to keep the sheep penned in for their own protection.

At the time many cities, like Jerusalem, were walled, with gates closed at night for the protection of the citizens.

In our day we close and lock the doors and windows at night for protection of our families; buildings have security systems; police patrol to keep us safe, the armed services likewise.

Every protective measure can be breached.

We are all vulnerable.

However, the sheepfold of our hearts and souls can only be breached if we choose to refuse the protective embrace of Jesus.

Satan cannot enter unless we open the door/gate to him.

He is the pan-ultimate thief and robber who can ‘climb over’ only with our cooperation.

“But he who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.” [v.2]

Anyone who invades our space, be it home, ‘personal’ space, mind, heart, soul is never one capable of loving us, of self-giving themselves to us, of having holy intimacy with us, irrespective of what words they may use to the contrary.

The flock does not panic when the shepherd enters because he already has a relationship with them as provider, protector.

 “The gatekeeper opens for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” [v.3]

Not every shepherd necessarily had a large enough flock of his own to merit the cost of an enclosure, so often several shepherds would share the cost of a large enclosure and someone to watch over the flock: the ‘gatekeeper.’

Clearly Jesus our Good Shepherd is the one who watches over us, but since He is no paid employee we need not worry that He ever abandons His post, yet here again we are free to reject His loving protection, that is we can walk away from Him, He, however, remains as close to us as He was to Peter when Peter took his eyes off Jesus and began to drown: Mt. 14:29-31.

He numbers the multitude of the stars and calls them all by name. [Ps.147:4]

Unlike the sheep in this teaching we are not anonymous in anyway. Rather, even more so than the stars, each of us is unique and in our uniqueness, recognizes the sound of Jesus’ voice, recognizes Him when He calls to us for, He alone speaks our true name: God calls each one by name. Everyone's name is sacred. The name is the icon of the person. It demands respect as a sign of the dignity of the one who bears it. …The name one receives is a name for eternity. In the kingdom, the mysterious and unique character of each person marked with God's name will shine forth in splendor. "To him who conquers . . . I will give a white stone, with a new name written on the stone which no one knows except him who receives it."… "Then I looked, and Lo, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty- four thousand who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads." [Catechism of the Catholic Church #’s 2158/2159]

While we have the capacities of thought, imagination, free will to make choices/decisions, indeed with our minds can reason and discover, invent and make things, as human beings over the millennia, using our intellectual abilities we have become writers, poets, artists, musicians, developed philosophies, theologies. Admittedly, not all we put our minds too turns out to be of truth, of good, of beauty, hence the need for grace to properly exercise free will in ways that are holy and good.

One point on this human journey of discoveries and choice is accepting the limits inherent in our ability to comprehend the totality of the reality of the Most Holy Trinity, the one true God, so we attribute various things to each Person, such as creation to the Father, salvation to the Son, sanctification to the Holy Spirit, sometimes forgetting that while in truth the Three Persons are: Father, Son, Holy Spirit, their communion of divinity and love is such that being One God,  no Person of the Holy Trinity acts in isolation from the other, hence when we hear the voice of Jesus calling we simultaneously hear the Father and the Holy Spirit.

“When he brings out his own sheep, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will by no means follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” [vs. 4/5]

Ultimately the ‘enclosure’ we are in is the reality of living within created time, on this earth, often times penned in within ourselves because of the sinful choices we make, so Jesus in redeeming us is also calling us out of ourselves, from any sin or situation which has us penned in, into the wider reality for which we have been created: the life of grace and discipleship, of following Jesus towards holiness and finally through the gate/door of death into eternal life.

Sadly, we are not as wary of the strangers, satan and his minions and those human agents who cooperate with him to lead us astray, as we should be. How important for us to frequently avail ourselves of Divine Mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation/Confession.

Understandable as this may be, it is somewhat sad: Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what He was trying to tell them. [v.6]

We cannot possibly understand anything Jesus teaches us, indeed anything in Sacred Scripture without invoking the help of the Most Holy Spirit. If we attempt to do so, by our own devices, then what we see in the words, hear in the words will be tainted with our own intellectual preconceptions.

© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph

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