I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear My voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. [v.16]
Because of the richness and immediacy of the Liturgical Year, while dwelling in the nitty-gritty of chronological time, we have the grace of living in the reality, the luminosity, the depths of kairos, the Lord’s time.
We celebrate the salvific reality of the above verse in the solemnity named in and with the western lung of the Church: Epiphany and in and with the eastern lung of the Church: Theophany. It is to live out the urgent call of St. John Paul II that we always be aware of breathing with both lungs of the Church, an apt metaphor for while a human being can survive with only one lung, capacity for fullness of life is reduced. Breathing with both lungs means a fullness.
With the antiphon before the Canticle of Zechariah in Morning Prayer the Western Church proclaims: Today the Bridegroom claims His bride, the Church, since Christ has washed Her sins away in Jordan’s waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding; and the wedding guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine.
Then with the antiphon before the Canticle of Mary in the evening, the Church rejoices again: Three mysteries mark this holy day: today the star leads the Magi to the infant Christ; today water is changed into wine for the wedding feast; today Christ wills to be baptized by John in the river Jordan to bring us salvation.
As St. John points out about the miracle at Cana: Jesus did this as the beginning of His signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him. [2:11] Each of the accounts in the Holy Gospels which, point to everything about Jesus, point most importantly to the revelation of His radiant glory, a glory which He offers to us, the glory of being children of the Father, disciples of Jesus, temples of the Holy Spirit.
Breathing at the same time with Her Eastern lung, the Church, at Vespers, proclaims with the Troparion: When You O Lord were baptized in the Jordan the worship of the Trinity was made manifest, for the voice of the Father bore witness to You and called You His Beloved Son. And the Spirit, in the form of a dove, confirmed the truthfulness of His word. O Christ, our God, You have revealed Yourself and have enlightened the world, glory to You!
Then with the Kontakion the Church reiterates this incredible and dazzling truth: Today You have shown forth to the world, O Lord, and the light of Your countenance has been marked on us. Knowing You, we sing Your praises. You have come and revealed Yourself, O unapproachable Light.
The encounters with Christ, indeed with the Father and the Holy Spirit, in the Sacred Liturgy, is to experience in communion of love the words from Hebrews: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. [Heb. 13:8]
Thus when contemplating Christ in each event in the Holy Gospels, meditating upon His teachings, these should penetrate the ears of our hearts, even if we are ‘reading’ passages, as profoundly as they penetrate the ears of our hearts when we hear the Holy Gospel proclaimed during the liturgy as these sacred words first vibrate through our external ears and then, like a tuning fork wacked to vibrate, our hearts vibrate.
Mostly the Holy Spirit, metaphorically, wacks our hearts gently, however sometimes if we are being obtuse He may have to be somewhat more dramatic!
For there to be the one flock of which Jesus speaks a price must be paid, that is not only the Chosen People, the Jewish people, our Elder Brothers and Sisters in faith, must be ransomed, but the rest of us, the Gentiles to whom the fire-light of Epiphany/Theophany is granted, we too must be redeemed and the price is the sacrifice of the unblemished Lamb.
The true Lamb of God, however, is not pulled from the flock and necessarily-arbitrarily sacrificed.
Redemption is a self-gift by the true Lamb of God, and as well it is a manifestation of the internal Trinitarian love, and the love of the Holy Trinity for us: This is why the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from My Father.” [vs.17,18]
While it is true Jesus’ self-sacrifice, self-gift is for everyone without exception, it is not a gift imposed on us. We are free to accept or reject this gift, keeping in mind the tragedy of the rejection is that the Giver of the gift, who is the gift itself, are inseparable. If we, with intimate confidence in the Trinity’s love for us, see and hear Jesus the Good Shepherd as gathering us, laying down His life of us we should understand, with great joy that He so gives Himself not simply in the collective ‘us’, but in the deeply, intimate, personal: for me.
Again there was a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He is possessed and out of His mind; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one possessed; surely a demon cannot open the eyes of the blind, can he?” [vs. 19-21]
How heart breaking it must have been for Jesus to hear such contention over His teaching and how heart breaking it is when anyone refuses to listen, be attentive, to embrace both the teaching and the Teacher.
© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph