Our inner unity in Christ the Good Shepherd

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Easter Week IV, 12 May 2019
Acts 9:1-20///Revelations 7:9, 14-17///John 10:27-30
From Google.

There is something very unique among us that binds us Filipinos as one whenever we go abroad aside from being “maganda” as the people of Jordan, Israel and Egypt described us in a recent pilgrimage. Whenever we are in a foreign country, we Filipinos have that inner recognition that we are kababayan, something like what Jesus tells us in the gospel today.

“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.”

John 10:27-28

This Sunday, we start a shift in our gospel readings: there would be no more stories of the appearances of Jesus after Easter until his Ascension with passages taken from St. John to deepen in us the meaning of Christ’s Resurrection.

Observe, my dear readers, the four verbs we have in our very short gospel today: hear my voice, know them, follow me, and give them eternal life. Right away we notice the inner recognition of Jesus Christ and his followers us, his sheep. See the flow of the first three verbs in our Lord’s declaration: my sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me. It is quite odd in the sense that the sheep follow the voice because the shepherd knows them when it should be the other way around: my sheep know me, they hear my voice and they follow me.

Remember the inner recognition we talked about the other Sunday, that feeling of “a basta!” when deep inside us we are so certain of somebody or something? This is an example of that experience we have going abroad when we meet a kababayan: by just looking at each other, we already know we are Filipinos as if they first knew us, then we hear them, and follow them. It is something we also have deep within us with Jesus our Lord and God.

The lovely district of Jaffa Tel Aviv where you meet many Filipinos too. Photo by author, 03 May 2019.

These four verbs of hearing, knowing, following, and giving express relationship and ties that bind us together as a people and nation. To hear and to follow imply communion; anyone who hears and follows somebody recognizes the speaker’s authority and voice, entrusting one’s self to his or her guidance like in the family where we hear and follow our parents as we celebrate Mothers’ day today. Hearing and following lead to a kind of attachment as children to the parents or a disciple to a master. The parents, especially the mother knows her children very well that she always thinks the best for them, doing her best to give them a better and secured future. On our return flight yesterday from Bahrain, we chanced upon many Filipina OFW mothers returning home with their children – some are still infants, others are little children or young kids. They are the mothers who sacrifice so much so their children and family can have a better future.

Going back to Jesus Christ our Good Shepherd, we level up the meaning and application of those four verbs, especially the knowing and giving that pertain to Jesus Christ.

More than our communion and unity in Christ as his disciples, we ought to hear and follow him because only Jesus knows us so well. Only Jesus knows our deepest pains and hurts, our deepest longings and desires. Most of all, only Jesus loves us so much despite of his knowing of how sinful we are that he calls by name like Mary Magdalene on that Easter morning or Simon Peter at the shore of Lake Tiberias after asking him thrice if he loves him to assure his forgiveness of denying him thrice on Holy Thursday.

Most of all, we ought to hear and follow Jesus because only he can give us eternal life for he is life himself (Jn.11:25)! It was only Jesus who had walked with us in every valley of darkness, never abandoning us, and most of all, passed over through every pain and suffering, even death so that we may share in the glory of his new life. Only Jesus can bring back our shattered lives when we squander this gift of life like the prodigal son. It is only Jesus who would never judge us or put us into shame in our sinfulness to give us a chance to sin no more like the woman caught committing adultery. Only Jesus can promise us heaven because it is only him who had joined us in our sinfulness without committing sin by dying on the cross like Dimas the repentant thief.

These, my friends, are the inner unity that bind us together in Christ Jesus our Good Shepherd of which John the beloved was given a glimpse in the second reading. This also shows us how salvation for everyone, not only for Jews or any particular group, has always been in God’s plan from the beginning that he sent us his only Son Jesus Christ. May we all hear and follow his voice always, especially through our dear mothers. Amen.

Entrance to the miraculous “Milk Grotto” chapel of the Franciscans beside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Photo by the author, 05 May 2019.

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