We All Need a Loving Gatekeeper and Filter: Christ Our Good Shepherd

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4th Sunday of Easter

Gospel of John 10:1-10 and the Sunday readings

Meditation Reflection:

Quite often as a mom I feel like a gatekeeper. When my kids ask to go somewhere, I need to know where, with whom, and for how long before I approve. Technology plagues me with even more gate-keeping work: parent controls, ratings evaluations, and download or streaming 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 while excited, impatient children complain as I set the perimeters 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 shall 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.

Christ the shepeherdJust 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 her?, 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 gatekeeper. 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.”

Consider:

  • 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 gatekeeper 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.

 

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Love and Work – The Good Shepherd Who Loves His Job

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

good-shepherd.jpg

 January 27th, 2018 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of John 20:19-31 NAB

Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. 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. 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.”

Meditation Reflection:

Consider the common exchange at first introduction.  After sharing our name, the usual question to follow is “what do you do?”  Why?  Since our work occupies most of our day it reveals something of our values, our unique personality and talents, and it shapes us over time.

I’m a wife, mom, and teacher.  In consequence, I value family and the development of persons.   I also have a knack for explaining things and a zany side that works well with kids.  My roles have shaped me too.  After teaching for so many years, I catch myself conversing in a Socratic way in every day conversation.  Before sharing something, I ask if the person happens to know the answer.  As they talk, I ask more questions.  By the end, I might recommend a book or article to read.  At the grocery checkout or fast food restaurant, I can’t help but see teen employees as students (of course, sometimes they are!).  I catch myself gently guiding them as they navigate taking my order.  Even when I try to just relax, the teacher comes out in me.  At the beach with my children, some teens started arguing and inappropriate words rose above the hum of swimmers.  Without even thinking I marched over to these young men much taller than me and, in my loud authoritative teacher voice, told them their behavior was inappropriate and needed to be taken elsewhere.  The other teens who had circled around to see the altercation looked at me with wide eyes expressing the warning “you are crazy lady!”.  The mom in me is here to stay too.  I was at a Master’s class and one of my classmates had a runny nose and cough, and no Kleenex.  As I took notes and listened to the lecture I grabbed Kleenex out of my purse and passed it down.  She laughed and afterward said, “I should have known you’d have Kleenex with you.  You’re such a mom.”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus identified Himself as the Good Shepherd.  It reveals that He values the care of His flock with nurturing and protective love.  He lives with them, guides them, feeds them, and protects them at all costs.  Moreover, His Sheep belong to Him.  The hired hand works transitionally – for the day and for income.  He may be providing for a family or saving for a pasture of sheep of his own, but the flock he watches temporarily is not his love.  In consequence he won’t risk anything for it.

Like a shepherd compared to sheep, Jesus’ dignity and nature is far above ours.  Yet He loves us intimately and personally.  He lives with us and cares for even the smallest details of our lives.

Pope Francis emphasizes this as well in his Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate:

the Lord is ever mindful of you; he never forgets you. So it makes sense to ask him to shed light on the smallest details of your life, for he sees them all.” par. 153

Jesus’ love is also total which is why He lays down His very life for us.

I lay down my life and take it up again.  No one takes it from Me.  I lay it down on my own.”

Before His Ascension into Heaven, Jesus entrusted His flock to Peter.

“Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’  He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.’  A second time He said to him, ‘Simon, son of John, do  you love Me?’ He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’  He said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’”  John 21:15-16

Each Christian at baptism receives a mission from God, a flock to tend – the persons Christ has placed in your life and your care.  It includes your family, co-workers, and the particular ministry to which God has called you.  The flock remains the Lord’s so we must first unite our heart to His in prayer.  In doing so, He pours out His love into us, from which we receive the generosity and joy to serve.  He opens our eyes to see others with the love in which He sees them, and to see their needs as He does, down to the smallest detail.

Pope Francis writes:

The important thing is that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts…We are called to be witnesses, but there are many actual ways of bearing witness.” (Gaudete et Exsultate par. 11)

Each saint is a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody, at a specific moment in history, a certain aspect of the Gospel.” (par. 19)

Holiness is about loving our Good shepherd and in turn loving the sheep whose care He shares with us.  Wherever God has placed us, we can witness Him to others through our sacrificial love.  After learning to trust Jesus’ little shepherd, they may take a leap of faith and trust the Good Shepherd Himself.

Consider:

  • Reflect on Christ’s love for you, down to the smallest detail of your life.  Take a moment to lay your worries and your hopes before Him and to rest in His care.
  • Pray for your little flocks.  Who has Christ placed in your life?  How might you serve them in love and joy?
  • Meditate on the love of Mary, who cares for everyone who belongs to her Son and consecrated her whole life to His mission.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Pray Psalm 23 each day this week.
  • Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for an increase of Trust in Christ’s Merciful Love.
  • Read the Biography of Blessed Stanly Rother – an American priest who returned to his mission in Guatamela to die with his people so they wouldn’t die without him. https://relevantradio.com/2018/04/homegrown-holiness-american-priest-on-the-path-to-sainthood/

How do you love your flock?  Share in the comments!

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~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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