Friday, May 5, 2017

Fourth Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday) Cycle A

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

Abundance Beyond Our Wildest Dreams

Some details are so minor that we almost do not notice them or we are not fully aware of what they are. Like the period or dot at the end of a sentence. In 1980 a Filipino singing group called ASIN or Salt of the Earth produced a song entitled Ang Tuldok, which in English, is The Period. It is a song about the period at the end of a sentence. Here are some lines translated into English from that song: The period has a story and meaning. . . . All things came from a period and if you observe are returning to it.

Yes, the period is important. Without the period we would not be able to get the proper meaning of a passage. It is an important and essential detail in writing.

In our Gospel reading today there is a detail that is most important for our Christian life. It is a detail that is greater than the punctuation mark period and it makes a greater impact on our life if we understand its meaning. This detail will make us understand better a third quality of the resurrected body of Jesus.

To make a very brief review of the first two qualities of the resurrected body which we saw in our past homilies during Easter Sundays, the first is that the resurrected body of Jesus is the first object in the new creation of God. The second is that the resurrected body of Jesus can become visible and invisible as Jesus wished it to be. And now we go to the third quality of Jesus' resurrected body.

The detail I am referring to is the last word in our Gospel reading, the word "abundantly". The full sentence reads, "A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly."

In our English version the last two words are in the comparative degree of the adverb "abundantly". It is comparative because of the word "more". In the original Greek it is not in a comparative degree. It is not even an adverb. It is a simple adjective. That word in the original Greek is "perisson". Its meaning is "more than sufficient", "over and above", "abundant", "out of the common", "pre-eminent", "superior". The clause has this literal translation: "I came that they might have life and they might have  abundant." The context gives us the meaning of this sentence, Jesus came that we, his sheep, might have life and might have an abundance of it.

Now the question we can ask is, Why is this word “perisson” or “abundant” important for us? It is important because it tells us what kind of life Jesus was referring to. He said that he came that we might have life. Well, we as human beings have already our human life when he came. Certainly therefore Jesus did not mean that he came in order to give us human life because we have this kind of life already. The kind of life Jesus was referring to was a life of abundance, a life "more than sufficient", "over and above" our human life, "abundant", "out of the common" life, a "pre-eminent" life, "superior" to our human life.

And this is the life that Jesus had after his resurrection. His life was no longer a mere human life, it was a life superior to his life before his resurrection.

There is an axiom in philosophy which is common sense. In Latin it sounds, Nemo dat quid non habet. Literally translated it sounds, No one gives what he does not have. Or a better translation is, You cannot give what you do not have.

Jesus cannot give this superior kind of life to us if he does not have it. He obtained this superior kind of life by his resurrection. His body now was superior to his former non-resurrected body.

Why was the resurrected body of Jesus superior to his former non-resurrected body? It was superior because now it was no longer subject to pain and decay. It was a glorified body. It fully possessed the abundant life that Jesus promised for us.

And having obtained this superior kind of life he gives it to us. It is the life of a resurrected body. This is the life Jesus gives us. And he is giving it to us now, while we are still on this earth.

John tells us in his letter, "See what love the Father has bestowed on us in letting us be called children of God! Yet that is what we are. The reason the world does not recognize us is that it never recognized the Son. Dearly beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall later be has not yet come to light. We know that when it comes to light we shall be like him" (1 John 3:1-2). We are God’s children now, as divine as God is, but we do not appear as such.

Yes, we are God's children now, with the resurrected life of Jesus but it does not appear that we are so. When we shall appear as God's children we shall be like Jesus with his resurrected life.

This is the gift of the Holy Spirit referred to in our first reading. And Peter says that this gift is for all those far off whomever the Lord our God will call. This is the gift of the new life, a resurrected life, a life superior to our natural life now, a truly abundant, superior kind of life.

Our Responsorial Psalm is appropriately the Psalm about the Good Shepherd since today is Good Shepherd Sunday. Here is described what Jesus does for us in this new life we have with him.

The LORD is our shepherd; we shall not want, because we have Jesus’ own resurrected abundant life.
In verdant pastures he gives us repose;
beside restful waters he leads us;
he refreshes our souls with his ever abiding Spirit.
He guides us in right paths for his name's sake.
Even though we walk in the dark valley
we fear no evil; for Jesus is at our side.
With his rod and staff that give us courage.
He spreads the table before us in the sight of our foes, supplying us with abundant heavenly food;
He anoints our head with oil;
our cup overflows.
Only goodness and kindness follow us all the days of our life;
and we shall dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come.

What a beautiful assurance this Psalm gives us. It describes what Jesus in his resurrected, exalted life does for us.

Our second reading tells us the sad reality of our present life. We suffer now for doing what is good. But Peter tells us in his letter to be patient. Because Christ also suffered for us. leaving us an example that we should follow in his footsteps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds we have been healed. For we had gone astray like sheep, but we have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of our souls. And now that we have returned Jesus gives us the best, a foretaste of the resurrected life through his own resurrected life in us.

What a comforting thought! In the midst of our suffering, of our pains, of our discomfort, of our lack of many things, Jesus is there as our shepherd and guardian. And because he is already risen he is giving us his own risen life so that we are filled with joy.

This is the reality of our Christian life. As Psalm 23 tells us, Only goodness and kindness follow us all the days of our life; and we shall dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come.

Paul the Apostle has a statement which provides us a glimpse of the abundance in stored for us. He said, quoting some words from Isaiah the Prophet,
“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard,
nor has it so much as dawned on man
what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

What God has prepared for us is a body like the resurrected body of Jesus which has wondrous capabilities, abundant in all possibilities which we cannot even imagine now. We like to look at circuses which display the wonderful movements of the human body, we gaze with wonder at the beautiful bodies displayed in magazines, we are enthralled at the sight of bodies flying in space or diving into the ocean depths. All these bodies we see will sooner or later die and be decayed. But the resurrected body God gives us which has the same qualities as the resurrected body of Jesus will never die, never decay. It will go on forever with abundant capabilities beyond our wildest dreams.

Let us pray. We bow our heads.

Father God, by raising Jesus our Good Shepherd from the grave you gave him a new body resplendent with possibilities which only you know. And the same kind of body Jesus is giving us. Thank you for this wonderful gift of your Spirit. We glorify you now and forever. Amen.

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Note for the readers:

The Mass readings are from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). This is where our Lectionary gets the readings.

NAB stands for New American Bible (before it was revised). This is the translation I use. Unless otherwise stated the text I use is from this translation.

AV stands for Authorized Version of the Bible. It is more commonly referred to as the King James Bible. It is the version most used in English literature, therefore it is the one known more by the English speaking world.

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