Saturday, 14 May 2011

Step Seven

GospelJohn 10:1-10 

Jesus said: ‘I tell you most solemnly, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but gets in some other way is a thief and a brigand. The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice. They never follow a stranger but run away from him: they do not recognise the voice of strangers.’
  Jesus told them this parable but they failed to understand what he meant by telling it to them.
  So Jesus spoke to them again:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
I am the gate of the sheepfold.
All others who have come
are thieves and brigands;
but the sheep took no notice of them.
I am the gate.
Anyone who enters through me will be safe:
he will go freely in and out
and be sure of finding pasture.
The thief comes
only to steal and kill and destroy.
I have come
so that they may have life and have it to the full.’

Step Seven: "We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings."

When I was little, before the need for a Vocations Sunday, Good Shepherd Sunday was a time to think about the mission work of the Church. I remember that this used to upset me a great deal - strange child that I was - the idea that there would be people unable to go to heaven because they hadn't been baptised. 

I had a book of Greek and Roman myths and fables that told me that the dead lived in a grey underworld of forgetfulness and, at the time, there was the tradition of Limbo  within the Church for those, mostly babies, who died in original sin. 

That didn't seem right either; a subversive from the very beginning it seems. 

Doesn't Jesus say that there were many rooms in his Father's house? Didn't he say there will be those who have never known him who will get to heaven before those who call him Lord? Yet here he says that he is the only way to the Father. Sometimes the message seems too complicated to comprehend and at other times so simple it can't be true. 

The relationship between Jesus and his Father and the Holy Spirit is a relationship based on Love and gift and the desire to do the Will of the Other. They are not a Triad; they are not conspiring against each other or competing for the top spot. They are a creative intimacy that is so powerful that creation is an undeniable response. 

Or, at least, that is the God I believe in. If they are true then to know any face of God is to know Love. Perhaps to know God in this way; rather than the God of anger; judgement or hierarchy is what's important. Maybe to know Jesus through deeds and actions; the parable of the sheep and the goats; the Beatitudes; the giving of self is what is important whether or not you have heard the actual stories. Maybe you can follow Jesus without ever hearing about him? That there is something, there is a genetic 'Godly' message if you choose to hear it - to try to live it.  'To love God and your neighbour as yourself'. How simple; how complicated.

Christianity is not just loving Christ but being Christ-like; which strangely translates as being a sheep...

Jesus used the culture of his time to tell the disciples this. We laugh at the thought of being sheep but we also know that the devotion of animals to their masters can't be overstated. And, at the time, it was sheep that portrayed this. Sheep are devoted to their shepherd and to each other; they know each others fears and sees the flock, the community, as the most important thing in the world. The shepherd knows that keeping them close - from birth, through first steps and brave leaps; by words and whistle and songs and midnight stories under starry skies - that those sheep become his; bleating hearts and shaggy souls. 

When they are lost - it is the end of the world - the bleating of a lost sheep would drive you mad. Last year I remembered a time when I rescued a sheep caught up in barbed wire. The bleating had been the signal - as incessant as a car alarm - calling, calling, calling. And as much as I was the one to hear I wasn't the right one - hence the headbutt down the scree slope. They do not follow the voice of strangers - if  I had been the voice the sheep recognised ...

So... Step Seven... to call out for help from the heart; knowing that you cannot help yourself. Having already committed yourself to the Higher Power and given up the egocentricity of knowing what is best. To know the grace of belonging. To have the humility to know that being unique does not make you better; and wanting to be better.



Anonymous said...

Beautiful Word, absolutely beautiful! I have always thought that people who didn't know Jesus in this world will meet him in death. I don't think that timimg makes a difference, just my thought. We are all his children and no parent would rest without all his children close to him. I love how you wrote about the crying of a lost or hurt sheep - much to learn from that.

Philomena Ewing said...

Lovely post- I like the idea of shaggy souls.
I remember when I learnt about limbo too and I worried and even had nightmares about it ; over active imagination, I guess.
Who ever thought these weird locations up has a lot to answer for.

Margaret said...

In a hard and changing world, handing yourself over to and putting your faith in the define definitely brings peace. Well said.

Word in the Hand said...

Thank you all - surrender may a tough thing to do but there's much to be gained from it.
I'm glad I wasn't the only one with the nightmares Phil - I take it as a sign.
blessings m+x