April 25, 2021 – Fourth Sunday of Easter
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/Bible/readings/042521.cfm)
Once while giving a graduation speech, the late-Philippine lady senator Miriam Santiago made a joke. She said… Beside the swimming pool, two girls are having this following conversation. G1 said to G2: Know what? you are going to float (Alam mo. Lulutang ka). G2 to G1: Why? Is it because I’m slim, light & sexy? (Bakit? Dahil ba, magaan, slim at sexy ako? G1 replied: No, it’s because you are Plastic (Dahil plastic ka). Funny & rude it maybe, but it tells a lot.
How do we distinguish a GOOD parent, teacher, friend, politician, leader, mentor or coach from a BAD one? How do we know if that person is real, true, authentic, deep, honest & trustworthy? How do we know that person is fake, shallow, liar & unreliable?
Nowadays it is normal for us to suspect things simply because it is not easy to know whether it is real or fake. Because it is difficult to detect the authentic from artificial or plastic, the durable from disposable, nowadays we do tend to be suspicious of things & even of one another. Same way with our relationships with others, we rather suspect, doubt, and distrust one another, than believe and trust others because it is more challenging to distinguish who are real or fake, honest or deceitful, smart or shrewd.
Jesus in our gospel today introduced and made Himself known to us as The Good Shepherd who knows His sheep and His sheep knows Him, and who will lay down His life for His sheep. As Jesus distinguished Himself from a Hired Worker who work for pay and no concern for the sheep, He reminds us here that as OUR good shepherd He is a hands-on and committed caretaker/caregiver of His sheep who maintains a personal intimate relation with His sheep, and will commit His life to live and work with His fold in life.
Be reminded the risen Lord reveals Himself in FLESH. In last Sunday gospel, as the risen Lord reveals Himself in the midst of the disciples, he showed and asked them to touch and see His wounded hands and feet. Thus, the risen Lord reveals Himself not as ghost but in flesh and bones with wounds. This is very significant because how we witness/recognize the Lord in our life is easily clouded by how we want Him to reveal to us. In other words, “We do not see things as they are, we see them as WE are.” Like, there are Christians who would like to see the risen Lord as “Jesus without a cross”. Jesus here is the risen Lord – without wounds and cross – who reveals to us in full transfiguration and perfect glory who will save our day and provide us success and wealth in life. He is a CEO Jesus of the prosperity gospel who is enjoying and sharing the luxury and pleasure of the so-called “Good” life with all His followers. There are also Christians who would like to see the risen Lord as “Cross without Jesus”. Jesus here is the risen Lord not in flesh but in spirit – a ghost. Here Jesus is believed to be not anymore in this world but in another spiritual realm waiting & welcoming us to the next life, but remain at a distance from our daily life-struggles.
However we like to see our risen Lord in our lives now – whether as “Jesus without a cross” or “Cross without Jesus”, the fact remains that, the risen Lord has made Himself known to us as “Jesus with a Cross” – a risen Lord in wounded flesh and bones who struggles and sacrifices painfully yet victoriously in life. The risen Lord then is a seasoned/experienced life-hero who, by letting us touch and see His wounds in Life – not His glorified body or His spirit, is now willing to shepherd, coach and journey us in life. In other words, the risen Lord is Our Good Shepherd because He is hand-on and committed in making known Himself and in journeying with us in our day-to-day humanity and struggles with joys, pains, and wounds of life.
Particularly For us Filipino Catholic, we do have special or unique take in knowing our Good Shepherd. We know Him not only because Kilala natin siya but because Dama natin siya. Culturally sense-feeling perceptions are important to us. Like,… I may know you, but I may not feel you. I may feel you though I may not know you. (Kilala kita, pero di kita ramdam. Ramdam kita kahit di kita kilala). This is how we distinguish real from fake & how we discern good & bad.
Same way as we Filipinos have this natural felt-instinct & sense to distinguish the real from fake, to discern the good from evil, we also come to be familiar with & know more the shepherd’s voice through our gut-sense and feelings. We do come to know the risen Lord as our true Good Shepherd in life not only by our volition, consent & reasonings, but most of all through our sense & feeling perception (damdamin at kalooban). By our sense-perception & feeling-gut insights, we come to know the risen Lord with us – in person & in flesh. Knowing the Shepherd is thus not only for us an intellectual or cognitive familiarity but more so a deep felt-sense knowledge and insight of His presence, love & blessing.
We pray then that the Easter Season this year be our moment to enhance and improve our special felt-sense of knowing our True & Good Shepherd, so that we may not be gone astray from His fold but rather have a much deeper relationship with Him, and be always attuned with His will & plan for us now, especially during these pandemic times.
So Help Us, God. So May it Be. Amen.