Today is traditionally called “Good Shepherd Sunday,” as Jesus presents to us the image of him being our shepherd. The Gospel account today ends with Jesus saying, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” His words are directed at us, the sheep of his flock who listen to his voice, and follow him.
The question we are being asked to reflect upon is this, “Is Jesus talking only about eternal life or also about this life?” I have no doubt that these words are meant to be applied to this life on earth as much as to our hope of eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.
There is a Spanish legend that says when a person arrives at the gate of heaven seeking to enter, St. Peter asks them a strange question. “Tell me this. Have you taken advantage of all the earthly joys which God in his goodness made available to you while you were on earth?”
If a person replies, “No, I have not,” St. Peter shakes his head sadly and says, “I can’t let you in; not yet at any rate. How can you expect to be ready for the heavenly joys if you have not prepared yourself for them through the medium of earthly ones? I shall be obliged to send you back to earth until you learn better.”
I find it to be a cute little tale to reflect on. In the past the Christian religion tended to be identified with restrictions and prohibitions. Many of us were brought up on the idea of detachment from the world as this present life was seen as nothing more than a time of trial. This type of spirituality discouraged enjoyment of life. It led to half-heartedness, living cautiously, and even fearfully.
It should be possible to enjoy life to the fullest while being religious. To live fully is not the same as to live it up.
Life is a fragile gift and each moment is unique. This should make us concentrate on the present moment and what we are experiencing in the present moment. Life is fleeting and this is what makes it all the more precious.
Jesus, our Good Shepherd, wants us to have life. Let us live whatever presents itself to us, because everything is a gift from God. Life is generous to those who seize every opportunity.
Mere existence is not enough for us human beings. Rather than looking for meaning in life we should be open to the experience of being alive! It is a well-known fact that those who have lived fully and intensely, do not feel cheated at death. As Henry David Thoreau said, “Fear not that your life will end; rather fear that it may never have begun.”
Jesus began his ministry with the words, “Believe in the Good News.” And this Good News is, “I came that you may have life and have it in abundance.” Even in these trying times God is blessing us with good things. May we not miss the opportunity to experience what God desires.
– Fr. Dennis, May 3, 2020