- Father David M. Knight
Father David's Reflection for Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter
The Responsorial Psalm affirms the universal hunger of the human heart for God: "Athirst is my soul for
the living God" (Psalm 42). And in the readings we see Jesus, the good shepherd, eager to satisfy that hunger in every person on earth.
In Acts 11: 1-18 Peter is explaining to some of the "circumcised believers" (the "judaizers": Jewish Christians who clung to the Jewish laws and customs they had grown up with and wanted to impose them on everyone who accepted Christ) why he broke the legal barrier between Jews and Gentiles by entering the house of Gentiles and eating with them. He explained it as an inspiration of the Holy Spirit - "The Spirit told me to accompany them without discriminating"
- and as a response to their evident faith, confirmed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them: "If God gave them the same gift he gave to us. who was I to be able to hinder God?"
Peter is doing two things here: first, he is showing us that to be prophets we must respond to the living voice of God, even leading us in unexpected directions, instead of remaining fixated in blind observance of laws. Legalism cuts off communication between us and the Spirit.
Second, Peter is modeling obedience to Jesus' great command to him: "If you love me, feed my sheep" (John 21: 15-17). The first concern of every Church member and minister should be to nourish people who are "athirst for the living God" and invite them to the table, not keep them away by general rules that do not consider the concrete reality of individual persons and circumstances.
John 10: 11-18 teaches us the attitude of Jesus, the good shepherd, toward those whom the "wolf" has "scattered" - and toward everyone who does not gather with his sheep. He will seek them out, welcome them, lead them: "And they will hear my voice." When we encounter anyone who is hearing the voice of Jesus, we need to say with Peter, "Who am I to be able to hinder God?" If someone is "athirst for the living God," God must be calling. How can we ignore that?
The spirit of Jesus, good shepherd, is the spirit of universal love; love that reaches out, that removes barriers and smooths the way for those advancing toward Jesus, whose "souls are athirst for the living God." The shepherds who do not do this are just working "for pay, and they have no concern for the sheep." In defending automatically the letter of the law they are breaking the most fundamental law of pastoral ministry: "If you love me, feed my sheep."
Initiative: Be a prophet. Recognize God's voice in others' hearts and help them respond. Never turn them away.