FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER HOMILY 4-26-15
Jesus says in today’s gospel: “I AM the Good Shepherd….I AM the Gate.”
I asked some 6th grade Catholics to interpret this gospel chapter of John 10. I also asked some adult women in their 30’s of what they thought about this gospel—in context to women’s issues today.
Those are the two viewpoints I will share with you today… for our ten or eleven minutes.
The students said that John 10’s message seems to simply indicate that we are the sheep, and as the believers, then, that we would be able to hear the Shepherd’s Voice, since He called us. He sees who heard him, because they are the ones (the responsive sheep) who promptly headed in His direction! Who is the Shepherd that notices this? He is Jesus Christ. He is an active shepherd, looking after his flock. He seems to personally know all of the sheep. (A fine interpretation so far, right?!)
The youth then interpreted the wandering fields as to being the world outside, and that the wolf is Satan, and he wants to steal kill and destroy the sheep out there (so the sheep had better be aware). The Gate is where the sheep are led back to before dark—which would be the Church and the place where believers unite in prayer, faith, love, service and such things. They come in The Gate to get in safe out of the dark. Ultimately, the students surmise, that going through this Gate also ultimately is Heaven. (Very good insight!) The students also note that the gospel depicts there is some time for the sheep to head home, but that the sheep had better get moving on homeward if they see the signs coming of the end of the day.
The youth agreed with me that maybe with could compare the sheep and the human persons in that we both have our freedom to roam on the hills and fields, but we also must both have our common-sense about us (on innate sense) to get back to the Shepherd’s gate: before it can gets dangerous out in the fields and in the dark. One doesn’t want to have strayed way too far by night’s coming. The students interpret the Gate as getting back close into Jesus’ good company.
That is a good wrap up, wouldn’t you say? John 10 is a straight up message–it’s clear and simple enough to know what Jesus is saying.
The young adult women see John 10’s message as Jesus’ claim to be the worthy center for the human race. (An interesting point of view!) They say “In John 10’s situation, He is come to shepherd people home to God, to goodness, to love, to unity. He is calling everybody to Himself.”
The women see that Jesus has no problem in naming Himself as the One Whom the planet should center upon. They say “He is the only One worthy of such a call: for the world to gather around Him. Yet there are many imposters who would want the world to revolve around them instead!”
Then the women said something quite bluntly: “Father, this is some women’s #1 problem or obstacle today in living a life of Catholic faith: it’s their huge ego. There is something of an ego-epidemic going on in some of the social or work scenes we women are in. “
So, the women were juxtaposing a modern situation they see, of egos gone amuck in some women people they know, against the example of one Lord Jesus Who is calling the world to Himself, but it is not about His ego problem. Jesus is very humble and secure in Himself as well. He also happens to be Divine!
So, I asked the young adult women: “What do you see as the problem then?”
They said: “It’s hard for a person with a big ego to make room in honor of another person in their circle. The ego-tistical folks want to be THE center in the room. Yet with Jesus Christ, He is calling us to make HIM THE CENTER in our being. We were made to be centered in God and with God operating and inspiring us from within us. Thus, Jesus ‘ call is for us to humble our selves and bend our will to God, because God is great, and should be treated so.
I said: “Well. I am sorry to hear of the growing ego problem which you are noticing among fellow women today. I do know how men have had our own very long-time problem through narcissism and of living with egos too big for a God-centered life. . They answered: “Sadly, some women are in the same rut today and might be more at fault than the men now, at least in being demanding and competitive with one another, and in a service to self that has gotten out of hand.
The women wanted to take note of Jesus’ example in today’s Gospel: “In this Good Shepherd Gospel, do you see how the Savior does not demand or insist with our coming to Him? He is not winning followers for His ego, but Hus mission is to offer people into His safety and ultimately into the care of His Heavenly Father. God’s Son would come humbly into the world and invite (not coerce) persons to follow Him and live in faith. He said simply: “My sheep know Me and they hear My voice.” He meant that there is an inner call to people to become true and one and loving and good. When Jesus said: “I am the Good Shepherd,.” (thought these women) what He meant was in saying that ‘I can lead a person safely into a fulfilled life. Come with your soulful needs, and your un-met desires of fulfillment, and come with the longing to no longer be roaming alone out there on the far hills.. Choose Me.”
They women further commented on the example of Jesus seems to be quite counter-culture to today’s hyper and aggressive person who is all into being #1 and boasting proudly in their own selves and positions. So, the women say that their interpretation of John 10– this Gospel says: “Jesus is the Center of All Attention. He is Life! We need to best be drawn in to Him, and out of ourselves.” Thus the women advise: We as women of God need to get this truism for our spirituality to be healthy. Because– If Jesus asks to reign in a human heart, then young women today (and men, too) need to move off of our self-entitled positions of pride, so to offer and let Jesus BE on the throne instead. A woman can certainly be successful and fully engaged in society; but she needs to trust herself into some humility too that comes being under the care of “The Good Shepherd Jesus…and The One Who Proclaims I AM the Gate.”
“Father Barry– More and more women today have an inflated sense of their own ‘fabulousness!’ They get stuck on themselves. By this, literally, some end up roaming out lost into a field where some trouble may come. Just like Jesus warned about. I wish they would listen to their Shepherd and have ears to hear the Lord.”
As I listened to them, I agreed with their conclusion: If we are to be true as people ( as men or women), then we will need to heed John 10: “My sheep will hear My Voice and follow Me.” I recalled another related verse to today’s Gospel passage that we’ll need to heed;. it is from Matthew 11, when Jesus said: “Come to Me, I will give you rest. Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart.
Addendum: Now, I looked up some women columnists and women professionals who would know whether or not that assessment of the Catholic women was spot on. Researcher and Writer Lucy Taylor said: “Us women ARE more egocentric and narcissistic than we ever used to be…More of us have huge expectations of ourselves, our lives and everyone in them. We think the universe resolves around us, with a deluded sense of our (‘greatness’) and believe we are cleverer, more talented and more attractive than we actually are… (Due to that) We have trouble accepting criticism and extending empathy because we are so preoccupied with ourselves… Narcissistic or egotistical women do have an overwhelming sense of entitlement and arrogance. (Research shows) there is growing evidence of an epidemic of ego—it is everywhere.“
Wow. That’s a strong voice of agreement.
Now– Let us see if there is another….
Psychology professors Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell say: “In the workplace, in friendships, even in motherhood, the pervading culture now seems to have become one of competitiveness, superiority and one-upmanship…. It is a sphere of self-obsession that is the problem. Once a traditionally male syndrome, narcissism generally begins at home and in schools, where children (perhaps) are praised excessively, often spoiled too much and given the relentless message that they are ‘oh so special’… in result, we have many women clients who arrive for help after their bubble is burst and they are in a mess.”
Wow. That’s a second voice of agreement. Would we have a third (about over bursting egos being a hindrance today, even in lives of women taking their places in society)?
Margot Medhurst leads a large Christian Dating Service for professionals only, it’s called “Yours Sincerely,” and she concurs after three decades in the job that too many young women are in a Me, Me, Me attitude today. Medhurst says: “I have noticed a significant rise in this phenomenon of over-inflated egos in women in recent years. They tend to be in their 30s, and there is a wide discrepancy between how they perceive themselves and how others see them. They are often very plain, but see themselves as being absolutely ‘fabulous,’ ‘exceptional’ people…”
Ok, the women’s points to me have some merit about what is going on in society and of what may be hindrances in women’s receiving the Gospel. If a woman (or man) is struggling with entitlement issues and ego-centrism, then how can Jesus be exalted as Lord in such a life? Some bowing down to the Lord will be in order.
So people will need to get past the culture today that encourages “you” to be on the throne of life. We’ll need to laugh and rebuff today’s advertising slogans aimed at us to be the self-centric consumer: “Live Mas!” “Taste the Rainbow!” “Big Girls Need Big Diamonds” “Glamorous Every Day. Fabulous Every Way” “Pretty Attracts Us” “Love Me More” “Make Them Take Notice” and all such appeals. They all have some little lie in each of them.
Maybe the Lord would just have the slogan: “Love God. Let Him Reign–He’s The Lord. Love others, since He loves you.”
In ending, perhaps many in society will still not understand the issue. People, we are not pre-entitled to anything before God, and we have not been worthy of anything. We don’t really have any greatness of our own, not if it is lived apart from God. All we have there is our sin and shame. Our so-called goodness is not enought to live on; we are sinners in need of a Savior and His ongoing shepherding of life. We need the goodness of God in us, or we are eventually left at nothing. God came to us, meeting with poor and needy sinners. “Yet while you were yet a sinner, Christ has died for you.” Romans 5:8 Believe it. The greatness of a person is that the Lord offered Himself for you, and will take His first place in your heart if you will submit to God’s will.