Daily Reflection
April 25th, 1999
Tom Krettek, S.J.
Acts 2:14, 36-41
Psalms 23:1-6
1 Peter 2:20-25
John 10:1-10
The readings I do not recall but I do recall the young woman who lingered after the Sunday liturgy to ask whether the message of the readings meant that she had to forgive those members of her family who had physically and sexually abused her as a young girl, and whether she was a bad person for not being able to do so.

Our conversation that day returned to me as I read today's second reading from 1 Peter 2:20-25.  "For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps."  Peter can be taken to say that either one suffers justly because one has done wrong and deserves to be punished, and so gains no merit by enduring it patiently, or one suffers unjustly, as Jesus did, but achieves God's approval if one suffers the pain patiently.  In either case, pain is to be suffered willingly by Christians because somehow it is right to do so.

This being-caught-between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place image is absurd for it not only presents pain and violence as something a Christian must endure, but also somehow must choose.  The damage of false guilt and shame are compounded when the person finds that he or she cannot forgive or so choose. Those who write on the history of Christian spirituality trace this understanding to a theology of atonement that takes the redemptive value of the cross to be directly proportional to the amount of physical pain accumulated.  The Christian, then, imitates Jesus in his or her accumulation of pain.

The image of the good shepherd in today's readings forcefully denies and contradicts this understanding and image.  Jesus contrasts himself with the violent robbers who come only "to steal and slaughter and destroy."  Jesus comes "that they might have life and have it to the full."  Jesus' relation to those who imitate him is entirely different from the violent and is not to be confused with them.  Today's gospel reminds us that there is a conflict between a complex destructive power or world of negativity and the world of divine providence and shepherding that gives life abundantly even in the midst of violent attacks.

Jesus came to raise and heal us.  The first reading brings this out well in the same way that the empty tomb led John to belief.  Just as the absence of the body signaled the resurrection, so too does the absence of verses 15-35 in the reading from Acts 2.  In these verses Peter witnesses that God has raised up this Jesus and proclaims that the risen Jesus fulfills the promise of the Spirit.  This Spirit is now available to anyone who opens his or her heart to receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Just as the Holy Spirit raised Jesus to life and led him out of the tomb of death, that same Holy Spirit is to raise us to life and lead us out of our tombs of death for the resurrection confirms that there is a love stronger than death.

What is the Easter news for the young woman with the question?  No, you are not a bad person.  The resurrection takes seriously the reality of human suffering and death and our need for being healed and raised up.  The resurrection also takes seriously that we are historical beings whose lives take time, for the risen Christ bears in his hands, feet and side the continuity with his humanity.  Forgiving, as a sacramental event, is a divine activity that takes place once and for all.  Healing, as a feature of human psychology, takes the time that human beings and Jesus are.

Jesus is risen, alleluia, alleluia!  Jesus is truly risen, alleluia, alleluia!

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