Monday, May 12, 2014

The Same Gift

If then God gave them the same gift he gave to us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God?”  When they heard this, they stopped objecting and glorified God, saying, “God has then granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles too.”  Acts 11:17-18

I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.”  John 10:16

THE LORD is my shepherd to feed, guide and shield me; I lack nothing when I surrender myself to the Lord’s care. 
The Lord makes me lie down in fresh, tender, green pastures; then leads me beside still and restful waters.
The Lord refreshes and restores my life – myself by leading me in the paths of righteousness uprightness and right standing with Him -- not for my earning it, but for His name's sake.
Yes, though I walk through the deep, sunless valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil; for You are with me; Your rod protects me and Your staff guides me, they comfort me when I am uncomfortable.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my already brimming cup runs over.
Surely only goodness, mercy and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life; and through the length of days the house of the Lord and His presence in every moment of my life shall be my dwelling place. (Amplified Bible)

Society in ancient Roman-occupied Palestine was very agrarian.  The history books tell us that people had a constant battle for food and water.  When you look at a popular and traditional Nativity scene, you’ll find a variety of domesticated animals which helped to provide food, aid in farming, and provide clothing:  camels, donkeys, lambs, and oxen.  In addition, there were dogs and chickens and horses and goats raised for food or milk or leather.  The writers of our sacred scriptures had their choice of all these possible animal analogies at their fingers and on the tips of their tongues. 
We could have been described as stubborn like a donkey in holding fast to our ways.  We could have been hard-working like the horse or oxen pulling the plow through the fields to try growing crops.  We could have been described as noisy like a barking yapping dog.  But, these analogies were not used.  Instead, the Gospel writers settled on sheep.
Sheep have traits that made them an excellent illustration of the Christian psyche. By considering the life of a sheep, we can gain some incredible insights into the feelings of the Lord’s true followers individually as well as in a group.
Sheep are special.  If one gets lost, the shepherd will leave the others and look for the lost one until it is found.  That tells us that each member of the Christian community is important. The sight of the people who really needed help to cure them of disease and other maladies moved Jesus pity. The sight of sinners moved Jesus to action.  They were like sheep without a shepherd, harassed and helpless (Matthew 9:36).
Sheep stick together.  Sheep are best known for their strong flocking (herding) and following instinct. They will run from what frightens them and band together in large groups for protection.  We would call that safety in numbers. It is harder for a predator to pick a sheep out of a group than to go after a few strays.  Maybe that is why Jesus surrounded himself with disciples and preached to large crowds on the side of the mountains, along the seacoast and in the plain.  It also may be why we saw Jesus tempted when he was alone in the desert but striking out at the devil when surrounded by groups of followers.
Sheep follow the leader:  When one sheep moves, the rest will follow, even if it is not a good idea. Even from birth, lambs are taught to follow the older members of the flock.  The dominant member of the flock usually leads.  Jesus was their leader.  When he went out in a boat, they went, too.  When he walked around ancient Palestine, they went, too.  When he entered Jerusalem, they went, too.  Sometimes the crowds were so big, they might have gotten in the way of the broader message.  Maybe that is why the Passion and Crucifixion is that much more important…because after years of following the shepherd, the sheep scattered. Jesus was left alone as he was in the beginning in the desert.
Sheep are social:  Sheep are a very social animal. When grazing, they need to see other sheep. In fact, books on animal husbandry advise that ensuring sheep always have visual contact with other sheep will make moving them easier. According to animal behaviorists, a group of five sheep is usually necessary for sheep to display their normal flocking behavior. A sheep will become highly agitated if it is separated from the rest of the flock.  Peter, alone and separated from the strength he gained from his comrades, was anxious when challenged about his relationship with Jesus.  Fearing the worst, he denied knowing Jesus rather than risk his own life.

Cursillistas are a lot like sheep, too.
We are special, too.  The yellow button says it all.  “I’m Loveable.  God don’t make junk.” J
We stick together in Palanca, table groups, closings, group reunions, Ultreyas at the parish and diocesan level and regional or national meetings.
We follow the leader.  With Christ, we are an unbeatable majority.  ‘Nuff said.
We are social. An isolated Christian is a paralyzed Christian according to the popular summary of the “Christianity in Action” lay talk on the weekend.
Life may be a cabaret.  Life may be a perpetual Cursillo.  But life is also a perpetual flock of sheep searching for the voice of our Master.  

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