|by Angela Lambert|
May 7th, 2017 4th Sunday of Easter
Gospel of John 10:1-19
Jesus said: “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. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” Although Jesus used this figure of speech, the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them. So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
Quite often as a mom, I feel like a gate-keeper. Before my kids go somewhere I need to know with whom, who the parents are, and approve. Technology plagues me even more, with parent controls, ratings evaluations, and restrictions. The ever-multiplying accounts, passwords, devices, programs, and updates can feel like an interminable game of whack-a-mole. Christmas and birthdays used to be fun, now they feel like a migraine-inducing tidal wave of gate-keeping duties, with impatient children complaining as I set the perimeter that I am being too slow, and of course, too controlling. I’ve at least developed a one-line response to save my overtaxed brain from responding to the myriad of “logical” arguments and pleas of trust from my young teens. “It’s as simple as this,” I say, “You will not have unfiltered access to the internet.” The Church could consider adding that as the 11th Commandment for the modern era.
Let’s face it, even adults, as children of God, need filters. We too can be easily allured by promises of pleasure, freedom, status, or adventure from false advertisers; and I don’t just mean commercially. Despite having everything, Adam and Eve fell prey to Satan’s proposition that God’s single rule (not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil) was controlling, and denying them fun out of selfish motivations. Satan continues to deceive us through similar false promises.
Just as predators try to find ways to get around parents to manipulate children, spiritual “thieves and robbers” try to get around Christ to attack us, God’s children. First, they try to separate us from His influence by undermining our trust in Him, His Word, or His Church. Common attempts sound something like: “Christ’s teachings hold you back. If you want to get ahead in life you have to be willing to get your hands dirty”, or “It’s not that you are going against Christ’s teachings, you are just modernizing them.” In regards to those difficult passages in Scripture, the ones that really strike at your conscience, you will be urged to simply pass over them or interpret them in a more relaxed way – “Forgive others, yes, but forgive my ex?, I don’t think He meant that…” Jesus stresses that we must die to ourselves in this life and deny ourselves. Instead we rationalize that He only meant that symbolically, or at least in a modest way – like going on a diet or not aiming too high. Finally, the Church, Christ’s living voice of authority, is the clearest voice of our Shepherd and therefore the harshest recipient of worldly criticism.
We are children of God, in need of a loving gate-keeper. Christ’s commands, given through Scripture and the Church, can seem restrictive and controlling if we have an adolescent view. However, as we develop in spiritual maturity, we begin to appreciate the wisdom and the love underlying them. When I’m tempted to brush off a Church teaching or a little pull at my conscience, I stop and recall that Christ loves me more than I love myself, and He is far wiser than me. Who am I going to trust? Any other false shepherd – whether secular culture, another person, or my own impulses – eventually drains rather than fills and proves a destructive, rather than uplifting force.
Christ, our Good Shepherd, leads to green pasture. He refreshes our souls and leads us beside peaceful waters (Psalm 23). Jesus lamented to St. Faustina that distrust on the part of souls causes Him the greatest pain. As a mom of teens, I know what He means. I want my kids to trust me too, and so I repeat the prayer He gave to St. Faustina, “Jesus I trust in You.”
- When have you been steered wrong – by others, by cultural norms, or by your own impulses? What was the reason? What did you learn?
- When have you been steered right by Christ? How has His wisdom brought deeper joy and fullness of life, even amidst suffering, than these other voices?
- Have you ever had to be the gate-keeper for loved ones? Consider the love it takes to be strong and the need for them to trust you.
- How can you trust Christ more and listen to His voice more often? Could you attend Church more regularly? Could you invest more time into Christian friendships? Do you make time to study your Bible, read quality devotionals, or learn more about your faith?
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Choose one way to listen more to the voice of Christ this week.
- Ideas: Add 10 minutes to your prayer time, pray the rosary in the car, listen to Christian radio, listen to Christian podcasts, read the daily Scriptures (these can be found at usccb.org), post inspirational Scripture quotes in places you will see them often, meet with a Christian friend.
- Consider adding a filter, rating restrictions, or accountability software to your personal technology.
~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017
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