Sunday, May 07, 2017

I am the Gate

By Rev. Paul Berghout

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed: "Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." Acts 2:14A

So Jesus said again, "Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly."  John 10: 7-10

The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures he makes me lie down;
To still waters he leads me; he restores my soul.
He guides me along right paths for the sake of his name.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.

You set a table before me in front of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life;
I will dwell in the house of the LORD for endless days. (Psalm 23)

Our Responsorial Psalm today from Psalm 23 is very personal. There are no references to "we" or "us" or "they," but only "my" and "me" and "I" and "You." This is David's testimony, his personal experience with God.

“He guides me in right paths,” the second part says.
In our Gospel, we hear that the shepherd opens the gate for the sheep. Gate is a metaphor for being a leader or a guide. “He guides me in right paths,” tells us that God’s guidance is also moral. Indeed, by BEING the gate, the Shepherd makes possible a free coming and going between sheepfold and pasture. The thief seizes resources and destroys life, but the shepherd offers freedom and bestows life.

However, some sheep would reject the gate. John 6:66- says "From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more."

Yet, the Good Shepherd still invites them back. Revelation 3:20, says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

Burt Kettinger tells about a small church in Rocky River, Ohio, just west of Cleveland where he grew up. This church had a small restroom behind the pulpit with a door right behind the pulpit for the convenience of the pastor. There was also a door on the other side of the restroom that led out to the church parking lot.

One day the pastor was waxing eloquent on Rev. 3:20. With great gusto, he exclaimed that the Lord is standing at the door of our hearts crying, “Let Me in. Let Me in!”

Adding a touch of drama to his message the pastor walked back to the restroom door behind the pulpit. He knocked on it and again reminded the congregation that God was at our heart’s door crying, “Let Me in. Let Me in!” when suddenly back from behind the closed door came the lamenting cry, “Just a minute. Just a minute.” 

“The Lord is MY shepherd.”
Sheep can recognize as many as 50 other sheep for up to two years and they can recognize their shepherd's face and voice. The sheep “hear his voice,” our Gospel today says.

The Shepherd leads the sheep down tracks that they will naturally follow, which have no doubt been established by previous generations of sheep and shepherds. Even though we live with family members, and may have established ways of expressing anger or frustration for generations, we have to follow the model of the Good Shepherd and speak words that edify and uplift.

This is NOT the voice of the Shepherd, "I told you so," "You're just like your mother!" "Can't you do anything right?" 

“In verdant pastures he gives me repose.”
How can stay in solitude and prayer when we feel that deep urge to be distracted by people and events? By repeating quietly, "The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want."

The Lord is my pace-setter, I shall not rush. He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals. He provides me with images of stillness, which restores my serenity.

"You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes.”
When God says he's catering, the dinner won't be just any ordinary meal. And there is only one guest at this meal – you, while those in opposition to God’s ways are on the outer fringe of the scene and watch everything unfold.

Peter, in our First Reading, says, “Save yourself from this corrupt generation”.

In our First Reading, Peter delivers the first recorded sermon of the Christian church. It’s addressed to the Jews and it’s benevolent in its thrust, ending with an appeal for repentance and conversion.

Our First Reading was from Acts 2. One Pastor said, “In Acts 2 they prayed for ten days, Peter preached for ten minutes and three thousand got saved. Today, we pray for ten minutes, preach for ten days, and three get saved.”

The people were cut to the heart. They realized that Jesus wanted to save us from sin at the cost of his life!! “What are we to do?” Repent and be baptized. Renew your baptismal promises.

Spiritual reading is an important way of being saved from a corrupt generation-- Daily we are bombarded from every angle with messages that are clearly designed to remove us one step further from our Faith or to cripple us within it. Whether social situations at work or school, the news, television shows, movies, books, advertising, the influences on our daily lives do virtually nothing to draw us closer to our calling as Christians to live the life of Christ.

Spiritual reading arms us for all those daily battles with negativity, temptation, and sin, filling our minds, hearts, and souls with truth, building us in Christ, and strengthening us for heaven. Psalm 23 in our Responsorial Psalm today ends with, “and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.”

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