By Bishop David McGough
Fourth Sunday of Easter Acts 4:8-12; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18 ‘Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter said: ‘Rulers of the people and elders, it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy. For of all the names given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.’ ” The Good News of the Resurrection was clearly more than a matter of words. Peter and his companions had been dragged before the temple officials to explain not only their words, but also their actions. “By what power, and by whose name have you men done this?” The questioning had referred to the healing of the cripple at the Beautiful Gate of the temple. Such wonders revealed the Resurrection as Christ’s continuing ministry through the words and deeds of his disciples.
We must never lose sight of the Resurrection as a continuing and healing presence in our world. Modern medicine has made great inroads into the tyranny of physical afflictions. It has scarcely touched the deeper wounds of heart and mind. Superficial relationships attempt to cover, but rarely succeed in satisfying our longings to be loved and understood, to be accepted and rest in a sure belonging. St John’s First Letter illuminates such longings in the light of the Resurrection. He is lost in wonder at the transformation that the Resurrection has already achieved within us. He invites us to consider not so much what we feel ourselves to be, but what the Father has made us in the Resurrection of his Son. “My dear people, we are already the children of God!” Only in prayer can this truth lay hold of our hearts. Instinctively we think of ourselves as conditioned by sin, as unworthy of God’s penetrating love. We think of life as a persistent struggle, a struggle which might, with perseverance, save us from the worst that God’s presence might reveal in us. What John describes as the Father’s lavish love breaks through our uncertainty. Already we are the children of God. The future, though uncertain, answers a longing that we cannot adequately express even to ourselves. “All we know is that when it is revealed, we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is.” The Good Shepherd discourse likewise speaks to the universal longings of a broken world. We might not know the precise details of shepherding at the time of Jesus, but we respond immediately to the words of the Good Shepherd. This is because we know the ways of the heart, and it is to these that the words of Jesus were addressed. “The good shepherd is the one who lays down his life for his sheep.” In a world that puts a price on everything, including love and devotion, we long to be embraced by a love that gives itself totally, that never names a price. “I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” While these words touch us deeply, they also reveal a paradox in sinful human nature. While we long to be understood by another, we spend much of our lives hiding from each other. We have not yet found either the freedom or the trust to surrender ourselves completely to the love of another. This is the salvation promised by Christ the Good Shepherd. Only in his healing presence do we find the freedom to know and be known, to love and be loved.