1st Reading = Acts of the Apostles 2: 14a, 36-41
Responsorial Psalm = 23: 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
2nd Reading = 1 Peter 2: 20b-25
Gospel = John 10: 1-10
Opening Reflection – Story:
A young man told Cardinal Timothy Dolan that he often thought about becoming a priest. The Cardinal was delighted and asked, “So what is stopping you from becoming a priest? He replied, “I’m an atheist!” The Cardinal, not deterred by a challenge replied, “We are in the business of conversion, come and see me and we will work on it.”
The Church always has its share of contradictions and challenges in attempting to lead people to conversion. Today’s Easter readings offer a few examples. “Repent and be baptized” (Acts 2: 38). “Even though I walk in the dark valley” (Psalm 23: 4a). “You had all gone astray like sheep” (1 Peter 2: 25a). “A thief comes to steal, slaughter and destroy …” (John 10: 10a).
Is it Easter yet?
After five weeks of Lent, why on the fourth week of Easter are the readings speaking of repentance, conversion, dark valleys, and destruction? Shouldn’t we by now be basking in the sunlight of resurrection victory – dancing and singing and praising God – instead of wrestling with uncertainty and personal responsibility? Do I still have to acknowledge my walk on the dark side and admit that I have gone astray in certain areas of my life? These and similar questions challenge us to ponder three profound truths of the Christian life.
First, conversion is more than a five-minute decision or momentary emotional experience – it is a lifelong process. A continuous turning from impulses that lead to sin; and a persistent dedication to thoughts and actions that conform us more to Christ. My pastor in New Jersey, Monsignor Mac, ordained 35 years, was asked, “When did you decide to be a priest?” He replied, “Five minutes ago. My doubts, weaknesses, and temptations constantly challenge me to follow my way but as a priest, I decide to choose God’s way – shouldn’t we all?”
Second, Easter gives purpose to repentance. If our goal is to be more Christlike, then a heart-wrenching examination of conscience will cause a turn from tomb-like behavior to resurrection victory – regardless of the circumstances.
Third, any hardship; physical, emotional, or spiritual with its corresponding setbacks calls us to search interiorly and with the help of God, ignite or re-ignite faith that has waned. We say, “I believe in God” but must ask. “On whose terms?” When everything is going well: God is good. But if things go badly does that mean God has turned bad? Is our “belief” in God only firm when God is making every wish and demand of ours come true?
In the spiritual economy, repentance and conversion are always necessary regardless of the season.
In today’s first reading, Peter, who repented in sorrow and shame (“wept bitterly”) after publicly denying Jesus (Luke 22:54-62), proclaims good news to a people in need of God’s redemption. Even though they participated in the Lord’s crucifixion, they too can experience conversion into deeper holiness. The Church in every age must continue to carry out its first-century model of Christian initiation in response to Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations. As well, each of us can take Jesus’ commission as a personal invitation and Spirit-anointed challenge by following Peter’s example of ongoing conversion. Repent of your sins, believe in Jesus as Lord and redeemer, joyfully accept His forgiveness, and tell everyone that new and eternal life is no further than a trip to God’s throne of grace through the sacrament of Reconciliation. Study the lives of the saints and model your life after one that demonstrated the spirituality you hope to attain.
In today’s second reading, Peter spreads a blanket of Easter grace in acknowledging that Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection give purpose to our repentance, which makes us more docile to God’s will. Because Jesus lives, we seek that forgiveness that frees us to live in right relationship with the Lord and one another. We have heard the Shepherd’s voice and are no longer estranged from God. Thereby we can take our place in the sheepfold and rely on the guardian of our soul.
Walk This Way:
Today’s gospel continues the previous chapters’ controversy where Jesus healed a blind man on the Sabbath. The Pharisees interrogated the one healed to discredit Jesus as a false prophet and extoll themselves as true followers of God. The issue boils down to trust. Would you rather trust someone who will lay down their life for you or another who only laid down rules? The rule-giver seeks to enhance personal power and exercise control over those who comply. Jesus, the good shepherd, willingly lays down His life, counts everyone as deserving of His sacrifice, and invites each of us to know His voice and follow His way.
Lasting purpose and fulfillment come when Jesus is at the center of our lives and is our primary model for living. Only He can provide peace and happiness that no person or circumstance can take away. “I came that they (all people) might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10: 10b).
Closing Comments and Questions:
So, what is this abundant life Jesus wants us to have? Is it excellent physical and emotional health, perfect harmony with no-hassle relationships, our ideal high-salary job or business? While all these and more are what many of us want, they are inward-focused and put ‘self’ as the highest priority. In contradiction, Jesus’ gift of abundant life is first God-focused, then other-focused.
Conversion demands we have a change of heart by looking at life through God’s lens. To make the corrections and adjustments to our way of thinking and acting so they are in oneness with the will of God. If God is truly leading, conversion is a necessity and abundant life is within our grasp.