Friday, May 12, 2017

HOMILY Fourth Sunday of Easter Cycle A May 11, 2014 St Austin, Austin, TX

          In the Gospel today Jesus makes a rather odd or unusual claim:  “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.”    “I am the gate.”   It just seems an odd thing to say.  Jesus says in the Gospel “I am the light of the world, I am living water, I am the bread of life, I am the way, the truth and the life,” and so on.  Jesus says He is many things.  But “gate” seems to me one of the odder choices. 
          Of course, gates are very important.  I grew up in St. Louis and while I was in high-school they built this huge stainless steel arch there.  Anyone ever see the Arch in St. Louis?  Do you know what it is called?   It is the “Gateway Arch”, because St. Louis was the gateway to the West.  It is where Lewis and Clark began and ended their journey of discovery, and for many years St. Louis was the jumping off point, the gateway, for Western exploration and expansion.  So gates are points of new beginnings and explorations.
          Before coming here to Austin I was pastor for 8 years in San Francisco, CA.  The iconic symbol of San Francisco, recognized all over the world, is this very long bright orange bridge.  Anybody know the name of that bridge?  It is the Golden Gate Bridge, because it spans the famous Golden Gate, a relatively narrow passage between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay and the interior of California.  The whole reason that San Francisco is there at all is because of the Golden Gate.  For over a hundred years sailors sailed right past it and never knew it was there, because of the fog.  Only later did the Spaniards discover it when they came upon it from the land side, from the East.  But only because of that all-important gate, allowing access to the Bay, did San Francisco come to be.
          Gates are important.  And Jesus tells us, “Amen, Amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.”   Well, who are the sheep?  Raise your hand because that is us.  Jesus is the gate for us.
          Where does this gate allow us to go?  Where does Jesus make it possible for you and me to go?  Well, Jesus enables us to go somewhere far better than the Wild West or San Francisco Bay.   Jesus tells us “Whoever enters through me will be saved,
and will come in and go out and find pasture.
”  Jesus is telling us that through Him we can be saved and find what we need for the fullness of life.
           All of us want to be alive.  Not just breathing and continuing in existence, not bored, not barely existing; but to love what we do, to be full of enthusiasm, joy, excitement, energy, to really be alive.  That is what eternal life is about.  Not just a long duration – which would be pretty boring – but rather to be fully, completely and intensely  alive.  That is what Jesus promises us.  He says at the end of the Gospel today: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” 
          Abundant life is wonderful.  And rare.  So many people in our society are barely alive.  They don’t know why they are here.  They don’t know what they want.  They don’t know what will make them truly happy.  They are only partly alive, like zombies, going through the motions, with a huge hole in their hearts where the love of God should be. 
          Is it any wonder that there is so much alcohol and drug abuse in our society, that people try to deaden the pain of being only partly alive, with no idea what their life means or what any of all this drama is about?  Or whose they are and why they are here?
          Jesus says “A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy;”   Drugs and alcohol, greed and materialism, ceaseless activity and frenetic schedules, pornography and sex for the sake of escape; all of these are thieves.  They rob us of life.  These things come only to steal and slaughter and destroy.
          But Jesus is entirely different.  He tells us:  “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”   
At this Mass two boys, Liam Christopher  & Robert William, will be Baptized, Confirmed and make their First Holy Communion.  They will receive that new life in Christ, and become God’s adopted children, sharing in the abundant life of Jesus.
          Jesus is the gate through which we can come to purpose and meaning and dignity in our lives.  Whoever enters through Him will be saved and find life-giving pasture; in service, in fidelity, in integrity, in honesty, in dignity, in love. 

          Jesus is the gate to salvation.  Jesus is the gate to the fullness of life.  As He assures us in the Gospel today:  “Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.
A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy;
I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”      

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