Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

My dear Friends:

Today is the feast of the Good Shepherd. This beautiful gospel unfolds the loving, nurturing, and protective relationship between Christ and his disciples right up to the present day. In various parts of the world in which I have worked and lived, towards dusk, the shepherd would create a circular corral of thorn bushes or stones. The entrance to this corral did not have the usual wooden gate.

The shepherd, himself, was the gate. He would sleep across the entrance to corral. Any predator attempting to attack the sheep would have to go through him first! The shepherd-sheep relationship was so intimate that the sheep would only respond to his voice, and his voice alone!

This is a very beautiful, deeply meaningful, pastoral image. However, in today’s world, I think this ‘image’ or ‘analogy’ has deepened and evolved. I have often spoken about our Divine Romance with God. This Divine Romance is essentially what our individual, and collective, spiritual journeys with the Jesus, Good Shepherd is all about!

In last Sunday’s gospel, when Jesus joined some of his followers on their journey to Emmaus, they reflected, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?’ I really believe that as we fall deeper in love with God; as his love permeates every fibre of our being; as we are filled with his quest for justice, his strength, his courage, his boundless compassion, healingand forgiveness…he transforms the ‘heart’ of the sheep into the heart of a lion!

When I look around me at our Faith Communities, I see so muchself-sacrifice, human dignity, compassion, tolerance, strength, courage, determination, and pastoral vision. I witness daily, the followers of Jesus, celebrating their baptismal priesthood. Now, and in our histories, they are the lion-hearted sheep who have become Reformers, Healers, Educators, and Prophets. They are the people who are striving to become the embodiment of Christ’s Love, Healing, Compassion and Justice. They are sheep with the hearts of lions!

I believe that any ‘shepherd’ has to be, not just a spiritual guide and leader, but also, the pastoral ‘midwife’ of the giftedness, greatness and glory of God which dwell within each person. By allowing himself to become a channel of The Good Shepherd’s passionate love for us, God can transform the sheep-hearted to the lion-hearted: like the bamboo flute, we are raised and kissed by the lips of God. It is God’s breath passing through us which makes the music of our lives.

In the words of the great Eastern mystic, it is then that we can:

                     See through the eyes of compassion

                     Listen with ears of tolerance

                     Speak with the language of love

Remember me as loving you,

Fr. Antony

The parish is part of the Diocese of Portsmouth. Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust registered charity 246871.

© 2019• Immaculate Conception Church, Portswood, Southampton

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