Belonging to God: Two RCWP Homilies for Easter 4 April 17,2016
In today’s Gospel (John 10: 27-30) Jesus is possessive of his followers-“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life…No one can take them out of my hand….and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.” Well, this old sheep is comforted and challenged by this message. I rest in Jesus’ arms, and in the Father/Mother’s arms. When life hits you from every side-with the horrors of violence, and illness and many causes for anxiety, it is good to know where you belong and feel sheltered and cared for.
The metaphor of the Good Shepherd in which Jesus is claiming both “Messiah-ship” and oneness with the Father who will not let us go, works for me. I was a city kid and only knew sheep from magazines and coloring books until adulthood, but I was gifted early with a love for all animals and a sense of kinship with all of creation. Then and now I have no trouble thinking of myself as a sheep. But when Good Shepherd Sunday came a few years back one five year old raised her hand as I went on about the sheep. She had not yet learned that she can comment after the homily but not in the middle but she was so insistent that I finally asked what she wanted to say. She said” I am not a sheep, I am a girl”. An older kid answered quickly “there are girl sheep and boy sheep, and tried to explain why Christ’s followers are called sheep. She remained indignant. So I said, “okay then, Jesus is saying “MY girls and boys and women and men know my voice….and follow me-no one can take my children away….” She nodded and we could proceed.
(Some of the sheep and lambs, God’s beloved children.)
(Below, Pastor Judy Lee and RCWP Candidate Maria Elena Sierra Sanchez in Colombia with goats-okay-not quite sheep..)
So if you are one who does not accept metaphoric connection to farm animals, or never saw a sheep or shepherd, accept that God is claiming you,and claiming us as God’s very own-knowing you inside and out and never letting go of you even if you are squirming away for a spell. And if you land at the edge of a precipice, God’s got your back. The earlier part of John 10 says “I lay down my life for the sheep”( 10:14), and for my other sheep “that are not of this pen”. What kind of love is this? All-inclusive love,not just “my kind” but all human kind. Love that has a claim on us, love that gives it all away for us, love from the wonderful God that we belong to forever. Wow! No matter what we have to deal with, and in our community is unspeakable grief due to violence, the murder of a mother; the drive by shooting of young people and children, the loss of children; the whispered pain and shame of the family of a shooter,( ‘pray for him he is a murderer’, she asked); a murder- suicide leaving four children without a parent though Grandma steps up; and the ravages of untreated illnesses and the struggles with difficult treatable diseases as well often compounded by the insecurity of not being able to pay the next bill and returning to homelessness. And,the feelings of helplessness many of us have as we see our loved ones living at the precipice are only mitigated by knowing that God IS there. Through it all, we are not alone, we have a safe haven and loving arms encircling us. God’s own arms,often presented in the arms of others. But sometimes, by yourself in the middle of the night God’s arms encircle,God’s voice speaks ever so gently and you know that you are not alone.
Today,4/16, Pope Francis and the Prelates of the Greek Orthodox and Eastern Ecumenical Church literally walked with and embraced and strongly advocated for the Syrian Refugees in Greece on the Island of Lesbos at the Moria Refugee Camp. Many are facing deportation from this Camp. As I watched their emotional faces on TV as they reached out to these frightened people with love and compassion, I knew the Good Shepherd was still caring for the most lost and bedraggled of the sheep. How beautiful it is when our leaders do show us the way. Pope Francis has made a home in the Vatican for three Syrian Muslim families,6 adults and 6 children. He is showing us by example not only words how to care for the sheep not of “this pen”. He is showing us how to build bridges and not walls in every aspect of this visit. I thank God for him and for the Greek Prelates who lead the way this very day.
And, I ask Pope Francis to make a bridge for his Roman Catholic Women Priests who also “smell of sheep” to meet with him in serious communication and be welcomed back home.
Thank God, thank Jesus Christ,we belong to God and life is ours now and forever-nothing can separate us from the love of Christ! Amen!
Rev Dr. Judy Lee,RCWP-Co-Pastor, The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community
And Rev. Dr. Beverly Bingle’s insightful homily:
“John’s gospel went through two or three editions by several authors
before it reached its current form 70 to 80 years after Jesus.
The community that developed it, known as the “Johannine Community,”
searched for its identity as a community in relation to the Hebrew
And it was concerned to present a narrative framework
that would support Jesus’ status as the Messiah.
As a result, today‘s passage has Jesus use
the traditional scriptural image of the shepherd and sheep
to answer a question about messiahship.
In our first reading we see Paul and Barnabas doing that same kind of
quoting scriptures to support their message.
And Pope Francis uses scripture
to convey his message in Amoris Laetitia, The Joy of Love,
the apostolic exhortation he issued last week.
Just as Paul and Barnabas apply scripture to the situation in Antioch,
and just as Pope Francis applies scripture to his exhortation on family,
so do we.
Whether we’re reading John’s gospel
or Luke’s Acts of the Apostles
or Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia,
we look at the time and the context
and listen to what it means for us in our time.
So the gospel verses about Jesus as the Messiah can speak to us;
Jesus talking about his unity with God can speak to us;
the metaphor of the sheep and the shepherd can speak to us.
One of the messages that stands out in all three of today‘s readings
is that life is not perfect
for people who live a life of faith in God,
and the way is not always clear.
Paul and Barnabas meet opposition
and get thrown out of town.
They shake the dust from their feet in protest
and go on to preach in another place.
Jesus is challenged by some of his countrymen
and tries to help them see what he’s about
and what God’s about.
He meets opposition, too.
In the verses after today‘s passage,
some of the crowd pick up rocks to stone him,
so he continues trying to teach, citing scripture.
Then they try to arrest him,
but he leaves Jerusalem and heads across the Jordan.
Francis’ apostolic exhortation is meeting opposition, too.
It’s not enough for the progressives,
and it’s too much for the traditionalists.
It’s easy to be critical.
Pope Francis certainly has an obvious blind spot
when it comes to women,
typical of the culture he was formed in.
And he uses exclusive patriarchal language.
Still, he sees the working of the Spirit in the women’s movement,
saying that to blame feminism for today‘s problems
is invalid, false, untrue, a form of male chauvinism.
He seems to be trying to revive the spirit of Vatican II
and lead the church in a better direction,
and that gives me much hope for the future.
He sees us as a church on the way,
not a church with the right answers.
The Pope tells priests to help people use their own consciences
when they make decision,
saying they’re “capable of carrying out their own discernment
in complex situations.”
He calls for dialogue as essential to Christian life.
He practices subsidiarity, calling on the bishops
to take local customs and practices into account in a pastoral way
and not to lay down a one-size-fits-all dogmatic rule.
He celebrates diversity and encourages unity… but not uniformity.
Most of all, he returns to the way of Jesus
in calling all the faithful to discern their own situation
and exercise their own conscience.
Our tradition gives us models of faithfulness:
Jesus teaching and healing in spite of the consequences,
Paul and Barnabas preaching in spite of opposition,
Francis exhorting us to prayer and discernment
as we follow our vocation…
and the members of our own community
questioning and studying and discerning the way.
Francis ends his exhortation with a prayer that fits every one of us.
“May we never lose heart because of our limitations,
or ever stop seeking that fullness of love and communion
which God holds out before us.”
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006
THANKS BE TO GOD!