An abundant life

I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” So, what do you make of the verse? What generally stands out in the hearing and imagination is “the abundant life.” What does it look like? If we don’t have an idea of what it looks like, how will we know when we have it?

Once upon a time in Kenya, an Englishman visiting the central highlands, discovered a beautiful river. Not too far downstream he came upon the chief of the Kikuyu people enjoying a moment of fishing. The chief had a great spot in the shade, the fishing line was tied around his big toe, and the chief seemed like he was napping more than fishing. Continue reading

The voice: some thoughts

A Theological Summary  Verses 17-18 form the conclusion to the discourse. In these verses, the shepherd meta­phor is abandoned completely and Jesus speaks directly about his death and relationship with God. These verses focus on three theological themes that are essential to understanding the death of Jesus in John.

First, these verses place Jesus’ death fully in the context of his relationship with God. Verse 17 contains the first linkage of “love” (agapaō) with Jesus’ death in the Fourth Gospel. God’s love for the world (3:16) and for Jesus (3:35) are already known to the reader, and this verse adds a new dimension to that love. God loves Jesus because Jesus lives out God’s commandment fully (v.18). In the Fourth Gospel, the core commandment that Jesus gives his disciples is that they love one another just as he has loved them (13:34). The sign of Jesus’ love for them is that he is willing to lay down his life for them (cf. 13:1; 15:13). Jesus thus obeys the same commandment from God that he passes on to his disciples, to live fully in love. It is wrong to read the these verses as saying that Jesus wins the Father’s love through his death; rather, his death is the ultimate expression of the love relationship that already exists and defines who he is and how he enacts God’s will for the world. Continue reading

The voice: good shepherd

Israel’s leaders were often regarded as shepherds, and even though God was always their principal shepherd, responsible human agents were necessary so that Israel would not be as “sheep without a shepherd” (Num 27:16, 17); and significantly, a charismatic element is said to have rested on such leaders (Num 27:16–21; cf. Isa 11:1–9; 44:28–45:1). God is said to have led the flock Israel through the wilderness by the hand of Moses and Aaron (Ps 77:21; Isa 63:11). Although no Israelite king is ever directly called by the title “shepherd,” it is implied, since David as prince feeds, or shepherds, Israel (2 Sam 5:2), and when Micah predicted the death of Ahab and Israel’s defeat, he said the scattered army would be “as sheep which have no shepherd” (1 Kgs 22:17; 2 Chr 18:16; cf. Num 27:16, 17). Continue reading

The voice: shepherds, robbers and sheep

I AM the Good Shepherd2Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. 2 But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.    3 The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. 5 But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” 6 Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them. 7 So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came (before me) are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.

Commentary Moloney [301] outlines this narrative by the following schema:

  • 9:39-41: Introduction. Jesus is questioned by the Pharisees (among whom there is a division) and he condemns them for their blind ignorance
  • 10:1-6: Jesus tells a parable about entering the sheepfold and the Pharisees cannot understand. This section is marked with the unique, “Amen, Amen…
  • 10:7-13: Jesus contrasts himself, the door and the Good Shepherd, with others who are thieves, robbers and hirelings. This section is also introduced with “Amen, Amen…
  • 10:14-18: Jesus the Good Shepherd, out of union with the Father, lays down his life for the sheep
  • 10:19-21: Conclusion: A division among “the Jews.”

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The voice: context

good-shepherd- iconJohn 10:1–10 1 “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.2 But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.   3 The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. 5 But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” 6 Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them. 7 So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came (before me) are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. Continue reading

Finding What’s Lost

sunglassesLast weekend, as part of the “Be-Cool Campaign,” I incorporated a set of sunglasses into my appeal. I have to admit that I haven’t bought sunglasses in all my years here at Sacred Heart.  Given that sunglasses are a de facto part of life here in Florida, this means that I am either very careful about taking care of my sunglasses or that I am a pastor of a Florida church.  The parish Lost and Found box always has a pair or two in residence.  After some months laying fallow in the darkness of a drawer, the sunglasses were found….by me. Continue reading

Hearts and Treasures

good-shepherd- iconMany years ago I received a letter. It was a letter that I wished, snow or rain or heat or gloom of night could have stayed that courier from the swift completion of his appointed rounds. It was a heart-breaking letter from my father, letting me know he had inoperable cancer. “Heart-breaking” is one of the expressions we use invoking the heart. We use expressions such as, “I know that by heart,” we do things “to our hearts content,” and we “cross our hearts” to verify we are telling the truth. Some folks “wear their hearts on their sleeves,” at times are burdened with “a heavy heart,” or blessed with a “heart filled with joy.” Sometimes our “hearts are broken.” It is the poetic expressions that are closer to the heart of the Bible. Continue reading

The Abiding Love of God

I AM the Good ShepherdHere on this 4th Sunday in Easter, our diocese and the US Bishops’ conference have asked us to speak about vocations to the priestly life. To echo the voice of the Good Shepherd calling those to a life of dedicated service of the community of God – to follow Christ more closely through life as an ordained priest.  And to answer this call in troubled times.  A time in our life when the church faces questions about a growing worldwide crisis caused by priests and bishops that has continued to flow onto the headlines of the world’s newspaper for almost 15 years now. It is a time when the question lingers on the periphery “Why would anyone want to become or remain Catholic today?” and its more focused parallel: “Why would a man want to become or remain a priest today?” Continue reading

Hear and follow: context

I AM the Good Shepherd327 My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”  (John 10:27-30)

Context. The pastoral imagery of John 10 is always a part of the readings for the 4th Sunday of Easter:

  • Year A – John 10:1-10 (sheepfold, gatekeeper, sheep recognizing the voice)
  • Year B – John 10:11-18 (“I am the good shepherd”)
  • Year C – John 10:27-30

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When it is revealed

ssn685-300I spent last weekend away. I joined several of my US Naval Academy classmates for a weekend in Ormond Beach at one of their homes. And as it is always likely to happen, when we get together, there were lots of sea stories. Daring tales of iron men and wooden ships braving the deep waters – and some of the stories were even true. It was also interesting hearing all the details of my friend’s assignments and their encountering other classmates in those assignments. Several of the men at the gathering had made careers of the Navy; several of us had not. Continue reading