Friday, 1st Week of Advent (7th December, 2018)
First Reading: Is 29: 17-24 (The meek will find joy)
Gospel: Mt 9: 27-31 (Son of David, help us!)
Every person created in the image of God has been called to fulfill His command. We see this already in the book of Genesis. Having created everything on the earth and entrusting them to Adam, God says, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). At first glance, one would think that God’s command to multiply would mean only making things produce more and more fruit. However this can be understood also in the sense of multiplying the goodness God bestowed upon them. The goodness He gave them through these things were His love, grace and affection for them. The things where only symbols of God’s goodness for them. This vocation to be fruitful and multiply God’s compassion, mercy and love extents to all of us.
Today’s reading speaks of the vocation of Adam being continued through us even today. Jesus compares this vocation to the profession of being a shepherd. In contrast to false shepherds (thieves), Jesus presents three main qualities a good shepherd is expected to have. They are: knowing the sheep, caring for the sheep and laying down the life for the sheep. These are gradual steps for the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep that lead to genuine and true intimacy. On can realize the importance of the first act of knowing from the relationship between God and His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus says, “Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father” (Jn 10:15). This knowledge of each other consists of grasping the qualities of each other and in fulfilling the expectation of the former from the latter. When the disciple asks Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (Jn 14:5). Jesus replies to Thomas saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him?”(Jn 14:6-7). The knowledge Jesus indicates here is not mere awareness of one’s whereabout or qualities but intimate relationship that would ensure. When I say, I know my sheep; it means that I have deep and intimate relationship. This therefore calls for deeper and more intimate relationship between us and the faithful to share the life of God with them.
Second quality Jesus expects from us towards our people is care for them. One would recall here those three questions Jesus asked Peter before the ascension. Although Peter was trying to prove that Jesus is well aware of His love for Him, Jesus asks him to feed the sheep, to care for the sheep (Jn 21:15-17). This makes us realize that our effort to deepen our relationship with Christ depends on the extent of care for our people. No one can say that I love Jesus if I fail to care for the people. Jesus praises the centurion for his faith not just because he expressed his trust in Jesus but for the care he showed to his servant. It is only natural for Jesus to enumerate the first commandment “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. … and the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself (Mt 22:37-38).
The third quality Jesus expects all of us is “to lay down our life for the sheep”. Jesus became an example himself for this greatest virtue. By dying on the cross for our sins and redemption, he asks us too to care for the sheep even to the extent of laying our life. On this important virtue, he also says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13). So this true love is shown in sacrificing ourselves. It is not always the martyrdom that can be the sign of sacrifice. It can even be giving our time, sharing our resources, talents, abilities for the welfare of others. One can even say that the poor widow praised by Jesus for putting everything she had is an example of what and how to lay down one’s life for others. For she reserved nothing to herself but gave up everything she had. While we want to pursue the good qualities a shepherd has, we too should have them ourselves.
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Ambrose. His letter in the office of reading shows that we need to have firm faith to face the severe storms of this world. He says further that the Church of the Lord is built upon the rock of the apostles among so many dangers in the world. He both warns of the impending danger that can shake the Church and gives us the hope that the Spirit of God provides the grace to withstand them provided we cooperate with them. He says that even the words we speak shall not be in vain or uttered without depth of meaning. In other words, the shepherd as we are need to be on guard against the dangers we are facing from outside and at the same time need to anchor our faith in God through prayers and supplications lest we should lose the sheep.
And when we truly love, our vocation to know the sheep, care for the sheep and even lay down our lives for the sheep, we too will be rejoiced to see what St. Paul wishes us to see i.e,. All men may see the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things (Eph 3:9). In other words, we need to bring God’s love, mercy and forgiveness to the faithful. The sheep Jesus mentions are not only those who have embraced Jesus Christ as their savior and Lord but all human beings in the World for Jesus Christ came so that all may have life, life in abundance (Jn 10:10). Amen.