Monday, April 25, 2016


Even in this digital age, when some people read everything on an e-reader, we still know the difference between a novel and a phone book.  You cannot read them the same.  You would not read the phone book as if it were a novel.  If you did, you would say, "Lots of characters, little plot".   On the other hand, if you read the novel like the phone book, you would find it very confusing, disorganized, un-informative.   So you need to know how to "read" a particular piece.
The same is true for Scripture.  The Bible is really a library, with all sorts of literary forms in it: history, law, narrative, novella, poetry, prayers, songs, letters, and other forms.  If you want to understand Scripture, you need to know what form of literature you are looking at, and read it accordingly.
Today’s Gospel strikes me as a love letter.  These are tender words, private words, words spoken in intimacy between lovers.  They should be spoken softly, almost whispered, with sincerity and feeling. 
"Jesus said: ‘My sheep hear my voice."    "My sheep" is a term of affection and endearment.   When the Lamb of God refers to us as "My sheep", this is not a put-down, like “what a dumb bunch of sheep”, but rather an address of great tenderness.  Maybe you have a special name for a child or spouse or sweetheart; a name that expresses a lot of affection and care and tenderness. ....   “My sheep” should be spoken the same way. 
"My sheep hear my voice."  How important genuine listening is to communication!  To hear Jesus’ voice is open our hearts to Him.  It is communication and union on a level of intimacy.  To really hear another is a great gift.
"I know them," Jesus says.  This is much, much more than book knowledge, or information gathered from the interned.   Rather this is personal knowledge.  It is certainly not “I know what you are up to” kind of reading.
No, this is intimacy, shared secrets and hopes.  It is not knowing just about the person, but to know the person herself.  Jesus knows us in this deep and close way.
"I know them, and they follow me."  Several times in the Gospels Jesus invites and commands: "Follow me."  This is what we do.  We are in love, and so want to be with Jesus, the Beloved.  We follow Him, because He is the desire of our hearts.
"I give them eternal life," Jesus continues.  This love is fruitful, fecund, lifegiving. 
Eternal life is not just life that goes on and on and on without end, but is rather full, complete, total, absolute life, all that we long and yearn for.  This is what Jesus gives us, the fullness of life, eternal life.
"And they shall never perish."  Jesus is faithful.  He is not a faithless lover.  All of us have been wounded and hurt by the pain of abandonment, by disappointment, by heartbreak.  But not with Jesus.  His love is firm.  It endures.  It prevails.   We can count on him.   "And they shall never perish."
"No one shall snatch them out of my hand.  My Father is greater than all, in what he has given me, and there is no snatching out of his hand."  There is safety with the Lord.  This relationship brings security.  As we heard in the second reading today: "Never again shall they know hunger or thirst, nor shall the sun or its heat beat down on them, for the Lamb on the throne will shepherd them.  He will lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe every tear from their eyes."
There is no more need for fear, for anxiety and crippling worry, for headaches and sleepless nights, for the concern and worry that ties your stomach in knots.  All that ceases, for The Lord is our Shepherd, protecting and watching over us. "And there is no snatching out of his hand."  We are safe.
Finally, Jesus says: "The Father and I are one."  This is the deepest of all communion, of intimacy, of sharing life, of love.  The union between the Father and the Son is the fullness and perfection of love.  This is the love that birthed the universe, the love that is the completion of all that there is.  And this perfect love is the model of our union with Jesus.  As the Father and Son are one in love, so are we to be one with Jesus in love. 
The Gospel today is short, but powerful.  For the words are packed with meaning and emotion.  They speak to us of the tender love and care that Jesus has for us.  And that is wonderful.              PAUSE
It also requires of us a response.  We must reciprocate by giving ourselves in love to Jesus Christ.  We must follow Him, in His way of obedient closeness with the Father, in our concern for all those that Jesus cares about.
We have, today, a concrete and practical way to put that union into practice, because this is our annual PLEDGE Sunday, when I ask you to make or renew your donation pledge to St. Austin Parish.
Obviously, we as a parish can function only with your generous support.  Our Finance Council and parish staff are minding our budget very closely these days. Pledging is VERY important. It helps us budget better. 
          Your pledge helps us to plan and undertake projects knowing we can count on the income to be able to carry them out.
Please don’t think, “the amount I give is so small, it isn’t important. They don’t really need to know.’  Every pledge is important – EVERY pledge is important, whether it is $5 a month, $50 a month, $500 a month or more.
I will now give each of you the opportunity to reflect and renew your sacrificial commitment to support the mission of St. Austin Church.  Each household should have received a Commitment Card with the Program Brochure this past week.  If somehow you did not get one, or misplaced it, DON’T WORRY!  If you do not have your Commitment Card with you, please simply take one from the folders in the pews. 
Please pass down the row the blue folders
          Let’s take a moment to complete our Cards.  You can donate in several ways.   I choose to use a monthly bank transfer.  That is the easiest for me, and the least costly way of collecting for the parish.  So it makes sense. 
          Currently I make a monthly donation to the parish of $53.  I am leaving my commitment at that amount this year because of the sacrificial commitment I chose to make for the capital campaign we are just ending.  Certainly if you are blessed by God and able to increase your regular contribution to the parish, we would be most happy to receive it.  We will have no problem putting it to good use.  We will now have a slight pause (for music) while you complete your card.
          At this time, celebratory music should be played. 
(following the music)   THANK YOU everyone for your attention, patience, and especially for your participation.  May God bless you all abundantly! 
          It is the Lord’s love for us, which we hear in the Gospel, that is the attraction for us to give, the ultimate reason and the real basis for our sacrificing for our faith and religion.  God gave us His only Son – quite a gift.  We are thereby impelled to respond back in generosity.  THANK YOU!
          Please place your completed card in an envelope, seal it, and then pass your cards to the aisle for the regular offertory collection along with your donation for today. Everything goes in the one basket.  There is only one collection for everything.  


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