Fourth Sunday of Easter: Acts 4: 8-12; 1 John 3: 1-2; John 10: 11-18
“I am glad to tell you that it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, by this name and by no other, that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy. For of all names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.”
With such words Peter explained the miracles and wonders that characterised the community of believers gathering around the apostles in the days following the Resurrection. Peter and the apostles claimed nothing for themselves. This early community, calling upon the name of Jesus, became one with the power of the Risen Lord. In them his ministry was continued. The sick were healed, sinners forgiven, and the Good News was proclaimed to a broken world.
We can learn much both from the humility of this emerging Church and from its confident faith. As we encounter the different challenges facing the Church in our own generation, let us have the humility to understand that the Kingdom of God does not rest on our own limited abilities to manage and innovate. The Kingdom of God is grounded in the presence of the Risen Lord, the stone rejected by the builders that has become the cornerstone. It is only in his name that we are saved. Let us call upon that name with the confident faith displayed by Peter and those first disciples.
St John’s first letter concentrated on the inner renewal brought about through the power of the Resurrection. “Think of the love that the Father has lavished upon us, by letting us be called God’s children.”
The ministry of Jesus had promised a new and intimate relationship with the Father, a kingdom in which the redeemed would be known as the children of God. It was from this relationship that Jesus had encouraged his disciples to pray to God as “Our Father”.
With wonder and thanksgiving St John acknowledged that this promised intimacy with the Father was already achieved in the Resurrection of Jesus.
“My dear people, we are already the children of God, but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed.”
The communion with God for which we long, for which we were created, is already begun. Let us be confident about the ultimate destination of this beginning. St John could not be specific, but his general indication answers all our longings. “What we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is that we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is.”
St John’s imagery of Christ as the good shepherd examines further the relationship of the Risen Lord with those who believe him. Christ is the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. This description of Christ embraces each and every believer with the generous self-giving of the cross.
We live every moment of our lives in the presence of a love that is given, poured out for us.
“I know my own, and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep.”
We do not live our lives, however unworthy, on the periphery of God’s love. In Christ we are known and loved, kept safe and gathered from all that would scatter our lives into destructive distraction.