Easter IV 2021 Year B Good Shepherd Sunday
“And I lay my life down for the sheep…” John 10:15b
There is a lovely and moving film entitled; ‘No greater love’ which documents a year in the life of an enclosed order of Carmelite nuns living at Notting Hill in the centre of London. There have been nuns living on that spot for centuries and even during times of persecution the community has remained faithful to their calling and to their locale. What is the most remarkable thing in the film, however, is an interview with the Mother Prioress.
She comes across as a women full of energy and hope, wisdom and great humour but it is more than her personality that impressed me or made my jaw drop. It was simply a comment she made that literally ‘knocked me for six’. At one point she says:
“ I have not felt the presence of God for over 30 years but my faith and vocation have remained as true now as it was when I first entered the order as a novice.”
For over 30 years, this woman in an enclosed order, has spent most of her life in prayer and contemplation of God that she does not feel present. Many others would have given up, I think, a long time ago but not her. She has remained faithful to her Lord, her God and her vocation. Her faithfulness goes beyond measure.
In today’s readings we are reminded first of Peter’s faithfulness to Jesus, despite his cock crow wobble on Good Friday. In the other two readings we are shown how faithful Jesus was and is to his followers and by assumption to us as well. It is Jesus’ comment:
“And I lay down my life for the sheep…”
that I think, is so very powerful. For in those eight words we are told that Jesus is prepared to give his life as the ultimate act of faithfulness to his Father and to us. Jesus further tells us that unlike the hired hand he will not leave his flock in times of danger or threat but that he will remain with them. Jesus is the ultimate example of faithfulness and as such he sets us a template to try and follow.
It is, however, not always an easy template to adhere to for remaining faithful to a cause or an individual or group of people in testing times is very difficult. All too often our first thought is to give up and up sticks, to move on to pastures new and hopefully less testing experiences and challenges. Yet, Christ’s faithfulness should teach us something. Something about trusting in God and hoping that we will be able to see things through and once again see good times rather than bad. As we come out of this time of pandemic we need to discern afresh what it is that God is calling us to be and to become in this bit of the Kingdom. How are we being called to minister to the people of God in they place? What will our ‘new normal’ look like?
The image of Christ as the Good Shepherd is a wonderful one and to have it as our dedication is unusual but exciting. Our congregation is not named for any saint or their example. We are named for our Lord himself and him alone in the example he sets us as the shepherd of his flock. Christ the Good Shepherd is a man true to his purpose and charges. Like our Lord, we all need to remain true to God’s call and to continually seek to discern where it is that we are meant to be going and what we are meant to be doing. We do that by praying daily to God for the guidance of his Holy Spirit and by trying to remain true to the example of the Good Shepherd that Christ sets before us.