4th Sunday of Easter
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Lest there be any confusion about who saves us from sin and death, Peter – filled with the Holy Spirit – says of Christ Jesus, “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” Peter is answering a question here. Some in the crowd want to know how he healed a crippled man. Rather than taking the credit and boasting about his spiritual power, Peter tells the truth: Christ healed him. Christ saved him. This once-crippled man joins the millions, billions of broken people over the millennia who have heard their shepherd's voice and followed him to their salvation. Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me. . .” Knowing Christ, loving Christ is how we stay secure in his flock, confidently led and protected from the wolves of the world. You can be sure that Christ the Good Shepherd knows and loves you – he died for you – but are you as sure that you know and love Christ?
This question isn't meant to make you anxious. I'm not trying to scare you. Far from it. I ask the question b/c it is far too easy these days for us to lose sight of our final goal – eternal life with the Father through Christ. So much of what we experience everyday is designed to steer us away from knowing and loving our Lord. Rarely are we directly confronted by a stark choice btw following Christ and running with the wolves of the world. Rarely – at least here in the US – are we asked outright to choose: love Christ or love the World. The Enemy is not so stupid as to believe that we would choose the World if our choices were so plainly stated. So, we are instead forced to make – over and over again – smaller, seemingly less urgent choices that slowly but inevitably turn us either toward Christ or the World. Choices that either lead us away from the flock or send us running from the wolves. You know what I'm talk about. Here's a chance to tell the truth or lie. Here's another chance to speak up for Christ, or stay silent. Here's a moment for showing mercy. or taking your revenge. Stay faithful to your spouse, or commit adultery in your heart. Offer praise and thanksgiving to God, or walk away believing you are entitled to His gifts. Knowing and loving Christ means – at the very least – that you keep firmly before you your final goal: eternal life with the Father through Christ.
This is why Peter and his Church have taught for more than 2,000 years that the only name given on earth and under the heavens for our salvation is the name, Christ Jesus. Many have tried through the centuries to modify, undermine, or outright destroy this constant teaching. Historically, the list of alternative Saviors includes: Good Works, Good Intentions, Just Being Human, Social Justice, Secret Mystical Knowledge, the Law, Rituals Well Done, the State, Community, and Prosperity. In all cases, the idea is to push Christ as-he-is out of the way and replace him with an alternative that demands less from us and is easier for the World to control. In all cases, the alternative is Christ with just a few little modifications, just a few tiny little tweaks that some believe improve on the original Savior. BUT the Good Shepherd knows his and his know him. When the wolves start to hunt, the sheep know where they can go to be secure, to be protected. As St. John says, “Beloved, we are God's children now. . .” And God's children take refuge in His Son.
You can be sure that Christ the Good Shepherd knows and loves you – he died for you – but are you as sure that you know and love Christ? If you are unsure about whether or not you know and love Christ, ask yourself: do I follow his commands? Christ says that those who would be friends follow his commands. Do I love as I ought? That's his first command. Do I bear witness to his mercy in my life? That's what apostles do, bear witness. Do I speak up and tell the truth about his Good News? Do I speak and behave in a way that shows others my love for Christ? Am I faithful to my baptismal vows? Do I use my personal opinions to judge Church teaching? Knowing and love Christ the Good Shepherd is never about “following blindly.” It is always about making a fundamental decision to follow Christ and then reorienting our lives along with his words and deeds. That what “following Christ” means. To walk with him, to talk with him, and to find ourselves living peaceably in his flock.
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