4th Sunday of Easter 2021
There’s a long tradition of reading the Word of God centered around Jesus as a shepherd, especially this Sunday. Part of that is that sheep without a shepherd are pathetic. They fall into pits, are hunted down by wolves and coyotes and wail pathetically until someone comes and rescues them. They need a sheepdog; they need a Shepherd. Very much like us without Jesus.
In recent months our middle-class culture has been shaken by a nasty virus coming out of Communist China, and by the emergence of what is called “wokeness.” It’s bad English and it’s bad philosophy. It really is just the same old 1960s rebellion dressed up for the 21st century, with a kind of kidnaping of civil rights-era language directed toward the triumph of Marxism. You’ve heard the so-called “logic” they use. America is fundamentally racist. If you are black or Hispanic or female or LGBTQRSWV you are oppressed. Your saying that you are not racist is proof that you are. You owe the oppressed everything, since they made you what you are, so you have to beg forgiveness but you won’t be forgiven.
Much of what they want is simply the same old Original Sin demanding happiness where it cannot be found. Most of these folks are mired in what St. John called concupiscence. For effect, it’s called lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh and pride of life. Lust of the flesh has to do with the good pleasures God has created for food, drink, art and music, and marital intimacy. But those pleasures are treated as the highest goodness, and are perverted into a kind of idolatry. The same with Lust of the eyes. We like it when we get a toy or a new set of clothes or a new home. But we can turn that into idolatry too. We like it when people say good things about us, or follow our leadership. But when we just crave more medals and plaques and power, we’ve substituted them for God.
In Thomistic language, these are the lowest forms of happiness, and they disappear quickly. They can keep us from engaging our altruistic nature and doing good for others just because it’s good. They get in the way of us developing a deep love for God, and finding our joy in Him.
Woke” culture is an attempt to get hold of all this quickly without sacrificing for any of it.
It’s the grossest kind of injustice in the name of “equity”. Woke folks are trying to fill up a hole in their hearts with material things instead of God.
Now look at today’s reading from John’s first epistle. What does God want? He wants to fill up that void in our hearts. Why? Because He loves us. We don’t deserve Him, but He loves us anyway. The woke culture fights obedience to God as the world always has done, because it fears losing control, is scared to death of sacrificing pleasures in order to become the best version of themselves–made in God’s image.
But we know that when Christ comes in glory, we will see Him as He is, and that Beatific Vision will make us like Him, glorified soul and body like His.
St. Peter, who in our reading has just prayed with John over a man who could not walk, instantly healing the man, testifies to the Jewish leaders that it’s by the name of Jesus that the miracle has been worked. That means that Peter and John were assuming the mantle of Jesus, just as Elisha did Elijah’s in the Old Testament. It was Jesus, risen from the dead who worked that wonder.
And salvation, which for the man was forgiveness of sin and healing of his limbs, which for the Jewish leaders would be turning their spiritual blindness into acceptance of Christ’s truth, and for the woke–and us, too–would be leaving our wills behind and accepting Jesus as Lord, cannot be found elsewhere.
Only Our Lord Jesus Christ, through Word and Sacrament, can fill the void in the human heart, by forgiving our sins and healing our inmost being with His grace.
St. Peter must have had some fun quoting psalm 118 to the Jewish leaders. Jesus, crucified, had been like a stone thrown aside by a contractor. But God brought the stone back–Jesus risen from death–and made that stone the cornerstone of His new structure, His new Temple, His new Church, made up of Jesus and the apostles and all of us who have accepted membership in Christ’s Body.
So now we are ready to hear the Gospel of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Everyone who claimed leadership before Him was a hireling, just in it for their own power or wealth or pleasure. The prophets, especially Ezekiel, were pretty hard on those hirelings, accusing them of butchering the sheep, not loving them. Not so Jesus and those who want to lead the flock today. We have to imitate Jesus in His enduring love, his steadfast fidelity to the Father and to the sheep. We have to be willing to give everything so that others can attain the kingdom of heaven. And it’s clear, too, that we need to pray for those leaders, some of which have shown themselves to be hirelings. Pray for their conversion and for the expansion of the flock of Christ. God wants all to be saved and come into union with Himself. God wants to fill up all the yawning chasms in our hearts.