[BREAKING THE BREAD OF GOD’S WORD]
4th Sunday of Easter-April 26, 2015
NO LESS. NO ONE ELSE.
Being one and being the same is a feat not easy to maintain in our times. We have various identities, depending on what age stratum we belong to. Digital natives who belong to the internet generation have more than one, and they all are evolving. Friendster identities have long since been gone and buried in digital cemeteries. My Space identities have followed suit, along with the likes of WAYN (Where are you now?) and so many attempts at defining the world in terms of cyber associations and organizations.
We, digital migrants who were not thrown into the water of digital complexities early on, have now at least two: real identity and virtual identity. (Some of us still hold on to emails, and doggedly forward messages filled with images of fluttering butterflies! … Others have moved on tentatively to Facebook, even if a great many have little or no understanding about the phenomenon of “walls,” “pages” “communities” and “groups.”
There was a time we were known for the companies we keep. K of C adherents were easily identifiable. So were Legion of Mary members, or CWL stalwarts. For the most part, we just had one and only one major identifying trait. What we did, the uniform we wore, the values we stood for … they all accrued to give our person that distinctive identity that could not be mistaken for somebody else.
Today, 4th Sunday of Easter, the concept of IDENTITY takes center stage in the case of Jesus Christ. According to Peter, Jesus the Nazarene was one and the same person with the one through whom alone there was salvation. He was the one crucified. He, too, was the one raised from the dead! He was the stone rejected by the elders, but He too, was the one who became the cornerstone. No less … no one else. There is no one other by whom the human race is to be saved.
Now let us make sure we got that right. Jesus was the Nazarean who did wonders and who was put to death. Jesus was the Christ whom God raised from the dead. He was the one “who came in the name of the Lord.” He wore many hats. He was a wonder-worker. He was a healer. He was a carpenter … a teacher … a preacher … a prophet and a leader.
Whatever it was He did, He remained the same … the Son of God … the Redeemer … the Savior – and mind you, - the world’s most tremendous lover! “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called children of God.” (2nd Reading).
But today, too, He gives us a clue to further enriching his one and the same identity. He tells us himself: “I am the good Shepherd.”
But he is not one who simply loves to post statuses in facebook and twit imaginary accomplishments like some high profile guy I know.
That same Jesus Christ who was crucified, who loved us with the world’s greatest love, other than whom there is no salvation for the human race, who rose from the dead, and who reigns forever and ever, is also Good Shepherd, who proves that being a servant-leader is not just a status or a twit on one’s wall.
“I am the Good Shepherd.” He goes on to prove it … “A Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” … “I know mine and mine know me, just as I know the Father” … “I lay down my life for the sheep.”
A lot of people know me in and via facebook. But nothing compares to the greatest gift of being known by God and loved with an everlasting love. He knows me. He loves me. And He saves me.
And he is Jesus the Nazarean, no less. He is the one who suffered and died for me and for you. No less. And He is the same one who rose from the dead and continues to shepherd us. No one else. Only Jesus. Only Christ. True God and true man. No less. No one else.
Peter was more than just understanding. He gave it to people
who “acted out ofignorance.” He was
tolerant and forgiving … like his Master, who “looked at him with love” even if
he betrayed him thrice.
John, for his part, was more than just warm to people he
endearingly calls his “children.” He writes to them, he says, “so that [they]
may not commit sin.” But again, like Peter, he gives it to weak people like me
and you, who sin seventy times seven times, for “we have an Advocate with the
Father Jesus Christ the Righteous One.”
The Lord, in the Gospel according to Luke, was more than
just encouraging. Alluding to the sad and dejected disciples on the way to
Emmaus, Luke then reports a “sighting” of the Risen Christ, on the part of
“startled and terrified” disciples gathered in a huddle.
To startled and terrified disciples, he gave reassurance:
“Why are you troubled?” To doubting disciples whose doubts went far beyond
Thomas’ famous doubt (“Unless I see; unless I touch, I won’t believe!”), he
gave solid and resounding proof: “Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I
myself. Touch me and see!”
Now, friends and countrymen and fellow citizens of the
world, tell me …
Who among us did not act out of ignorance in our lives ever?
Who among us have not committed sin after sin on account of
Who among us did not feel terrified, afraid, and in doubt … ever?
Welcome to the world of mortals and men! Welcome to the realm
of weak and frail humanity! Welcome to the world of sinners and saints who were
redeemed once and for all by Him who suffered, died, and is risen!
For ever. For all women and men. For all time. He lives and
reigns forever and ever!
But our love most times is not forever. We forget. We betray
the Lord. Like Peter did. Our knowledge, for the most part, is never
experiential, but merely theoretical. We know our catechism, but never live it.
We know the Gospels, but never preach or proclaim it. We know by heart, but
never with the heart.
Today, there is thrice-repeated challenge that we should
You recognize the risen Lord, you say? Then by all means,
“repent and be converted.” (1st Reading).
You claim to know the Lord? Then reflect on this: “Those who
say, ‘I know him,’ but do keep his commandments are liars.”
You say you are a witness to the resurrection? Then, what
about this? … “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with
you, that everything written about me must be fulfilled.”
Recognition ought to lead to reformation. Knowing must lead
to loving. Acknowledging the Lord Risen ought to pave the way to acclamation.
Then what ought we to do?
“You are witnesses of these things.”
Lord Jesus, open the Scriptures to us; make our hearts burn
while you speak to us! Make us recognize you. Make us reform our lives.
Make-overs have been a regular feature in this recent
decade. Old houses get a new lease on life – and, ohhs and ahhs – after what
they call an “extreme make-over.” Fitness and health and beauty gurus speak
endlessly about restoration of the physical kind that breathes in youth and
very literally some form of new life after similar extreme make-overs. Old
houses are renovated. Ancient ruins are restored, and life seems instantly renewed.
Or so we think.
But soon enough restored buildings suffer from the same
pattern of wear and tear. Renewed art works eventually accumulate grime and
grit and grease from too much exposure to the ravages brought by too many pairs
of feet trampling on very limited museum square footages all over the world.
Caverns with stalactite and stalagmite protrusions both up and down caves all
over the world soon suffer from too much body heat and acidic perspiration from
too many people who unwittingly kill the beauty of nature without trying very
“The world,” so says the Holy Book, “and all its pleasures
are fast drifting away” (1 Jn 2:17).An
author back in the day, says that just as soon as a baby is born, he is already
in the process of dying, and that process of dying is very literally repeated
every seven years, when all our cells are renewed, reborn, and restored, from
the biological point of view.
Today, since I write when the whole world is silent and in a
standstill, when all believers await the promise of the resurrection of the
Lord from the dead, I talk about the same process in reverse … from darkness to
light … from death to life … from falling down to rising once again.
Everyone of us has suffered some kind of little deaths in
our lives. God knows how many times I have … from being ignored to being
accused unjustly … from feeling despondent to feeling excited … from being
close to being helpless and hopeless to getting a new lease on courage and hope
and everything else associated with faith … from being so sinful and so far
from the Lord to being restored to grace and inner peace of mind … I have died
– and at least, figuratively and spiritually – risen so many times in my life.
But this last statement is precisely why I am even writing this
and even talking about new life. And since He died and rose from the dead, all
this talk about make-overs and restorations and renovations all sounds hollow
and meaningless unless we talk of him who made it possible for us to even think
and hope and actually look forward to getting new life.
One can talk about renovations and restorations, but no one
does it like God who is the author of life. If he could make something out of
nothing, He, is capable of making new life come out even from the experience of
This is why the Easter Vigil is so symbolic, while at the
same time so realistic. The whole progression from darkness to light is
indicative, not only about a shallow make-over, but a deep Passover from death
Tonight’s fire is new. But there is more than new fire
tonight, but new birth. We are not doing a make-over but a Passover through a
new transition, to a new way of living. Christ did not die in vain, and He
definitely did not rise to new life in vain.
I still die a little so many times. Like when I sin … like
when I fail. I suffer little deaths when all my best dreams and best efforts go
down the drain on account of so many reasons, not excluding the lack of support
from otherwise good people who, for reasons best known to themselves (or not at
all), work at cross purposes with me, or refuse to cooperate with me, or ignore
me. Satan is very busy with those who are trying their level best to do good.
But today, I continue to stand tall and proud. I continue to
believe. I continue to rise. For deep in my heart, I know my Savior reigns. He
died. He rose. With Jesus I died. With Jesus I rose. With Jesus I hope for
I am a pilgrim. I am a learner. I journey with others in faith and life. In all I do, in my preaching, teaching, counseling, and writing, "all I want is to know Christ, and to experience the power of his resurrection" (Phil 3:10). By so doing, I humbly hope to make a difference in people's lives.