The great Christian writer, C. S. Lewis wrote that the most emphatic noise is the one we are trying not to listen to. I can fall fast asleep on a plane before it takes off and yet the barking dog across the alley can easily keep me from the delightful arms of Morpheus. The more I try to still my soul, the more the dog senses the chance to disturb the entire cosmos.
We all know the noise of guilt and we listen to that pretty easily. The noises of shame, disappointment and regret are likewise familiar tunes within our spirits. I am wondering these days of Easter about the noise of the Holy Spirit announcing a new Holiness within us. Why would we not want to listen to that? It is certainly an emphatic noise in the Gospels of these days and especially from John’s Gospel pages.
As we prepare for our celebrating this week’s Eucharistic liturgy, I suggest that we ponder why that is such a noise to which we do not want to listen. One thought, is it that we need a leash, a carrot, a super-something to keep us on the track? Is there such a perfectionism within our following Jesus, that holiness is more difficult to receive than self-punishing spiritual inferiority. We could pray to receive exactly and directly what our reception of the Eucharist is emphatically noising.
The early church is branching out and is experiencing growing pains. We hear in today’s First Reading from the book of Acts, about such acts of two apostles, Paul and Barnabas who are advancing the “word of God” through the blessing of the Holy Spirit. They seize the opportunity to enter the local synagogue and were encouraging converts to Jesus to stay faithful. One week later they are at it again and the religious leaders of the Jewish people become jealous. Jesus did the same things by provoking and staying faithful to the resulting consequences.
The second half of the Reading begins the great turn. The “gentiles” - the foreigners - are now to be the recipients of the Gospel’s graces. The early church learned that fidelity costs and living the Gospel will be met with resistance and violence.
This whole chapter and these few verses continue the theme of who belongs in the club, in the group who have seen and heard, who are the true followers and receivers of God’s call.
The sheep belong to the Father and have been handed over to Jesus to be His Flock. Others will try to snatch them away, but the true followers of the Christ will flee from them. These verses and the rest of Chapter ten are both a continuing insult to His Jewish listeners and a consolation to His listening flock. The chapter ends with the insulted wanting to stone or arrest Jesus, but He withdraws for another hour, His final one, final sign.
It is all about listening. There are many reasons why we do not want to, or like to listen. We may not like the looks of the speaker. We might have already heard the same thing before, and many times. We do not trust the presenter, because of their often-used, “Umms” and “You knows”, and the use of “in conclusion” which is the beginning of the post-oration. We do like listening to stories, but not statistics. We love listening to a speaker who seems to have been thinking the exact same way we have.
Keep listening to me now, like, you know, umm, I kind of have something you will probably not like. No story, no statistics will support what I experience within me.
It is difficult to listen to Jesus when He is talking to me about letting go as much as possible to my independence, my wanting to be apart from any community and at other times wanting to be a part of community. Community here is family, church, nation, team, and class, whatever group asks for my time, gifts, heart and head.
The word “depend” means literally, “hanging on to”. The negative “in” when added to “depend” means not hanging on to anything. Our present world is alive with movements promoting independence from one entity or power so as to be dependent on some other.
Jesus claims us as actual gifts from the Father and Jesus is giving us to be in relationships which will continue the caring for all God’s creatures. Our depending on God is not a casual now-and-then experience. God loves us as God loves the Son and the Shepherd has laid down His life that we might pick up ours.
I know there are terms such as “inter-dependent, co-dependent, overly-dependent, self-centered independence”. These are good distinctions, but the struggle remains. Jesus is resisted by His listeners then and now, when He tells us He has brothers and sisters who are poor, rejected, afflicted, abandoned, homeless, and jobless. Jesus and they are asking, inviting us, actually insisting that we are to depend on them for receiving true life. He tells us who are in the flock that there are others who also belong, but they have been listening to other voices. He depends on us - me - to speak and live what He has tried to say to us, to me, and so many times.
In conclusion, do you know that three out of every two persons have trouble with fractions.
“The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord; by the word of the Lord the heavens were made, Alleluia. Ps. 33, 6
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