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To: Salvation
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“See what love the Father has bestowed on us..."

A Scriptural Reflection on the Readings for Sunday, April 29, 2012, the Fourth Sunday of Easter | Carl E. Olson

• Acts 4:8-12
• Ps 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29
• 1 Jn 3:1-2
• Jn 10:11-18

During Holy Week we focused on the Passion, death, and Resurrection of the Son; when Pentecost arrives, we will focus on the transforming work of the Paraclete. It is sometimes said, very understandably, that the Holy Spirit is the most mysterious of the three Persons of the Trinity. But, while emphasizing the unity and equality of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I often think the Father is, in his own way, just as mysterious.

Today’s readings shed some light on the first Person of the Trinity, particularly on three qualities: his command, his power, and his love. All three help us to appreciate more deeply the Father’s plan, purpose, and person.

The Father is mentioned some 130 times in John’s Gospel, and one of the key themes of John’s writing is the intimate relationship between the Father and the Son. The Father, Jesus states, “loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand” (Jn 3:35). “He who does not honor the Son,” he preached, “does not honor the Father who sent him” (Jn 5:23). And Jesus says directly and simply: “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30). In today’s Gospel, from the Good Shepherd discourse, Jesus makes clear he, of his own free will and volition, “will lay down my life for the sheep. … No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.” But he also adds that this command to lay down his life was “received from my Father.”

The Father’s command was for the Son to become man, suffer, and die. Yet this command was not accepted unwillingly or received as an order from a superior—after all, the Father and the Son are both fully God. This might seem strange to us since we naturally tend to think of commands as directives from a superior to a subordinate. But this way of thinking is purified and transformed by the revelation of who God is as Trinity—an eternal exchange of perfect and personal love.

This is why Jesus states later, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love” (Jn 15:10), and “This I command you, to love one another” (Jn 15:17). There is no conflict between the love of the Father and the Father’s commandments, for God is love and everything from him is love. To those who are sons of the Father, the commandments are gifts of love. But to those who reject the Father, the commandments are confining, annoying, even angering.

The Father’s power, Peter declared, is shown by raising the Son from the dead. “The Father's power ‘raised up’ Christ his Son,” explains the Catechism, “and by doing so perfectly introduced his Son's humanity, including his body, into the Trinity” (par 648). The Father so loved the world he sent his Son, the Son became man, and the Incarnate Son—fully God, fully man—was taken into the Trinity.

That affirmation of the Crucified Lord and of his body brings us to John’s first epistle: “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.” The Triune God created man out of love, his plan of salvation flows from his love, and he desires that all men freely choose to share in his gift of boundless love (cf., CCC, par 1). The Incarnation, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection reveal and make present this perfect love.

“Although the Son is always beloved by reason of his nature,” wrote Cyril of Jerusalem in his commentary on the Gospel of John, “it is evident that Christ is also beloved by God the Father because of his love toward us.” The Father gives his Son, and the Son gives the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit gives us the life of the Father so we might enter eternally into the beatific vision, “the ever-flowing well-spring of happiness, peace, and mutual communion” (CCC, 1045).

 (This "Opening the Word" column originally appeared in the May 3, 2009, edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)

45 posted on 04/29/2012 7:30:25 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: All
Regnum Christi

I Lay Down My Life
Fourth Sunday of Easter

John 10:11-18

Jesus said: "I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father."

Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for this opportunity to be with you in prayer. My heart is ready to listen to your words of eternal life so that I may choose to follow you more closely on the path of true love.

Petition: Lord, may I be faithful to your will in my life.

1. I Lay It Down: The Father entrusted Christ with a mission: Christ was to bring about our salvation through a life of unlimited self-giving, even to the point of giving his own life. Being God he could repay the Father for our sins; being man he could identify with our fallen humanity and raise its dignity so that we might become the Father’s children. Christ was the perfect bridge between fallen man and an infinitely holy God. His mission of bridging this chasm came about through freely accepting the will of the Father. Our Lord would receive nothing in return, and yet he was faithful even to the point of death.

2. On My Own: Jesus was not ordered to give himself for our sins. He offered himself. Freedom is best used when it willingly embraces God’s will, whatever the cost might be. We have to remember that Jesus knew what lay beyond his preaching and his miracles: the road to Calvary. He spent many nights in prayer on the Mount of Olives in preparation for his hour. He foretold his fate to his disciples and continued forward towards this end despite their misunderstanding. And in the end, when the hour came, he proved faithful. When the hour of darkness sought him, he stepped forward to say, “I am he.” Christ never flinched in front of God’s will. He felt its weight. Sorrow flooded his heart. An easier path tugged at his humanity. But he proved that love is stronger than death, that true freedom can defeat sin and master it.

3. A Life of Love: Perhaps offering ourselves to God frightens us. What will he ask? What will I have to leave behind? Will I be able to do it? However, fear vanishes when we live out of love, like Christ. We need to remember that the Father asked him to die for us, and look at the fruits this bore! Taking on our humanity, he left behind the splendor of his divinity and raised us to a new level. He did the impossible by bearing the weight of all our sins. He trusted in the Father to give him strength. Today we might be asked to die more to our self-love, to leave behind a vice we have been struggling with or to trust that with grace we can live a truly Christian life in a world hostile to Christianity. In the end, if we love Christ, we will not be frightened because he has already shown us the way –– and he has already conquered.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, give me the courage to be a faithful Christian at all times and in all places, with whomever I meet and in whatever I say. Help me to give testimony to who you are.

Resolution: I will offer one concrete act of self-mastery for love of Christ today.

46 posted on 04/29/2012 7:34:45 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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