Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Joy of Listening to the Shepherd's Voice

Fourth Sunday of Easter Year C

Being a Christian disciple can be disheartening. How much sorrow, trials and bitterness has life in store for everyone, especially for those who try to live good lives. How many innocent people suffer, are subjected to violence, injustice, betrayal and deceit. It is not easy trying to live Christian values in a world that promotes contrary values. In business, we are told that honest people will never be successful. In order to be rich, one must be prepared to lie, to be dishonest, to cheat and be involved in corruption. Is there a place in such a world for a Christian who is called to live and speak the Truth?

The world tells us that we must be nice to our friends and to those who can help us but we must be wary of our enemies. As a Christian, we know that we are not to make any distinction between friend and enemy. In fact, Christians are called to love their enemies. The world cannot accept this because it would appear that we are allowing our enemies to have the victory and to take advantage of us. Is there a place for a Christian who is called to love and forgive?

Today’s readings give us the reassurance that we need. In the first reading, it may appear that the wicked are victorious. The enemies of Paul and Barnabas spread lies about them and opposed them. Finally, these enemies managed to get Paul and Barnabas expelled from the town. But the reading does not end on a disheartening note. Rather, it ends with a curious remark: “the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.” Instead of shedding tears of sorrow, the disciples are filled with joy. This is a sign that joy can go together with tears, as well as with the unfulfilled hopes and sorrow for suffering injustice. The wicked enemies of truth will never be able to experience this kind of joy; they fight the gospel, are proud like winners, but are in fact, so foolish.

In the second reading, we are given a picture of the destiny of those who have suffered or even died for the sake of the gospel. They are those who in this world went through sufferings, persecutions and gave their lives for their brothers like the Lamb. Other people looked on them as losers, but for God they are the winners. As a reward for remaining faithful, they will no longer experience suffering, hunger or thirst because the Lamb will be their shepherd and will lead them to springs of living water. God will wipe away all tears from their eyes.

Christians are not called to make every one happy. It is impossible to make everyone happy. There will always be someone who will disagree with you or with the things you are doing. Therefore the criteria is not whether others are happy or not with our actions but rather that we follow our conscience and do what is right. To follow our conscience in order to do the right and loving thing is what it means to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd. This is the promise and reassurance given by Jesus the Good Shepherd to each of his disciples: “The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life; they will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from me.”

We cannot deny that it is difficult being a Christian. Jesus did not promise us that he will take away all our problems and sufferings in this life. If we want to be his disciple, then, we must be prepared to face the same fate as Jesus did, we must be ready to endure hardships and persecutions. What Jesus has promised, however, is that he will shepherd us with love. He will never allow us to despair. He will give us the courage and strength to bear the cross. And finally he will lead us to “restful waters” where our spirits will be revived.

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