by Trevor Thompson, Director of Pastoral Ministries
Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 29, 2012
What goes to death with Jesus, I believe, is a view of the world as a competition of self-interests, a rivalry of agendas, and a performance of power plays; the belief that life is one frantic attempt to preserve my ego, control others, and always be right. This view of the world is an ancient and inveterate storyline, and our history books, no less our own biblical tradition, detail how these stories unfold. Lest we think we have evolved beyond this fatal strategy of relationships, we need to look no further than our own current economic and political atmosphere, the thick plots of our own family system, or our own daily dealings with our spouse or co-workers. In fact, sometimes, it looks like we have just resigned to the fact that this is the way things are.
What I see inaugurated in the power of the resurrection is the birth of a new kind of human community, a community of tangible, transformed human followers who look to the way of Jesus of Nazareth as model of how to live together beyond fear, self-interest, power, and control. Indeed, we believe that salvation comes through this man, not the “hired man” who acts to preserve his own self-security and righteousness but the “good shepherd” who lays down his life for the sheep. Rather than a story where the only result is game of winners and a losers, our Christian story is a hopeful story of human selfishness shattered, the one crippled healed, and the one rejected made into the cornerstone. In his embodied love then, Jesus shows us how to live for something beyond any human agenda. As one bearing Christ’s name, I no longer need to win God’s love, out-compete my neighbor, protect my self-interests, or secure access to a scarcity of attention, money, or position. No longer does my neighbor have to be an enemy; no longer do I need to commit myself to a life of endless arguing, posturing, positioning, defending, enforcing, cutting off, and damning. Jesus helps me see that this world and its machinations is a dead end, bad news for everyone. With his death and resurrection, Jesus conquered sin and death for all time and therefore opens up another gate for his sheep. When we walk through this gate, he calls us all “children of God.” As brothers and sisters to one another, a whole new way of finding relationship is now possible. This is indeed “good news.”
Yet, even as children of God, even believing in God’s immense love, it is immensely difficult to live as an Easter community. In fact, left to our own devices, it’s so easy to fall back on our “bad news” way of relating to others. It’s for this reason that I find my membership in this community of faith so vital. Here, through the formal sacramental life of the Church, through friendships in Small Christian Communities, and through ministering with those in need in our community and beyond, I am learning the way of the Good Shepherd, a way that includes a whole host of Christian practices like forgiveness, trust, holy patience, mutual understanding, generosity, and love as a dying to self for the other. These are the hopeful ways that Easter people relate with each other, and it is for this reason – to learn these virtues with you – that I am here at St. Francis of Assisi. I look forward to hearing why you are a part of this faith community.