Today’s readings are of the Good Shepherd. Christ is the Good Shepherd. The sheep hear his voice and they follow him because they recognize his voice. All of us have heard the voice of the Good Shepherd, but not all of us follow Him because not all of us recognize Him. Where are you Lord that I may follow you?
“Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and proclaimed: ‘Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified’…Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart.” (Acts 2:14a, 36).
Cut to the heart is what every single Christian will achieve if they cut to the chase! Peter cut to the chase and what happened? About three thousand souls were added that day. Are they exaggerating? Is this just a lie? No, it is not. It is what will always happen if we preach the Gospel message effectively and allow the Lord to affect our lives! I have no intention here of writing an English paper on the proper use of affect and effect. But its proper use may be essential in the battle for the hearts and minds of millions of souls.
Authentic Discipleship. It may be argued that pastors and religious spend way too much time on social issues (war, abortion, marriage, poverty and climate) and not enough time on the original message: God so loved the world that he sent his only Son, the Son he loved with all his heart, with all his mind and with all his strength, for the salvation of the world. Whoever believes in Him will live forever. This is the message that cut through the stoniest of hearts. Those who were added in a single day were not naïve, nor were they ignorant. They were open to the truth; to a beautiful message of love, forgiveness and compassion. Who is not open to that? Have we tried to enter a sheepfold by climbing over the gate? Do I believe that the pressing issues of today will be resolved through philosophical agreement, scientific discovery or educational resources? Can the family be replaced? Can love be replaced? Can the God of Jesus Christ be replaced? No. Never! For as long as we search for life and joy, we will continue to search for the One who has both; the only One who has it abundantly.
The habit does not make the monk. Almost every day I receive phone calls from the emergency line at St. Joseph. Most of the time I am ready for them, but sometimes they come at awkward moments – like when I am exercising. In these rare cases, I sometimes opt to go to the hospital in my sweatpants. Well, on this one particular evening, I decided to dress in my uniform. I arrived at the hospital and it took me a while to find the building and the room. I finished the anointing and headed back to my car. Like so many times before, I got lost in the maze of hallways and tunnels and ended up on the opposite side of the parking lot. As I was shaking my head in my own lack of attention, I heard someone call out to me. I looked up and saw a woman running towards me. Her sister was dying and they had been looking for a priest all day. I followed her and saw a little angel, a thirty-three year old mentally challenged woman who was dying after having suffered a heart attack due to years of muscular dystrophy. The family was heartbroken. But I, along with them, knew she was an angel. The Lord always provides for his angels. “The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall lack.”
I got lost for a reason and I was wearing my uniform for a reason. If I had not been wearing it I would have passed right by this woman in need. We should always wear our love for Christ in our heart and on our sleeves! The early Christians were easily recognizable – they lived what they believed.
When I arrived to the room the family was still waiting for one last family member, a brother, but after thirty minutes they felt uncomfortable that they were making me wait so long. They asked me if I should go ahead and perform the Last Rite. I wanted to leave but I told them, “Let’s wait.” They were so happy! I learned another good lesson from God.
What made the Apostles so successful? They communicated through their words and actions the God they loved so much! It was a convincing message. For three years they had had an intimate relationship with Christ and they would never allow themselves to forget what the Lord had done for them: Christ had died for them.
It was so natural for the Eleven to give a little bit back, and on this day, three thousand men were added. And that is no exaggeration.
Why were the Apostles so successful in bringing souls to Christ? Because they never forgot what the Lord had done for them. They wore it in their hearts and on their sleeves. Christ spoke from His heart, through their hearts and into the hearts of thousands. For this reason, all who heard believed, for they recognized the voice of God and the language of His love.