13 April 2008 4th Sunday of Easter
John 10:1-10 The Gatekeeper
This Sunday is usually called the Good Shepherd Sunday. The readings and the responsorial psalm are about Jesus as a shepherd who takes particular and personal care for His flock. In the Gospel of John, Jesus used the image of the shepherd as a gatekeeper: the shepherd who opens the gate of the sheepfold and the sheep who enters are those who recognize His voice. You see, in Palestine, there are many shepherds and thus, many flocks who belong to different owners (a village sometimes owns the flock). When the sheep mingles with other flocks, the shepherd calls them through a unique whistle or a peculiar voice which the sheep recognizes --- as a dog responds to its owner’s voice. Whoever recognizes the voice of the shepherd belongs to his flock, enters the gate, and will be under his protection. Belonging to the shepherd, the sheep experiences his unique and personal love.
To belong to the Shepherd is to recognize His voice. Language enables us to belong to a certain person or a group. A couple shares common memories, stories, and lifestyles. They develop a certain language after a period of time, of being together, of sharing struggles with each other. A group of friends come together and speak in a particular manner. Their ‘language’ mainly includes the things they like doing together. Some even develop ‘terms’ --- whose meaning they only share. In addition, dialects determine a person’s origin. The same way with God. The way of God is different from our way and the way of the world. To recognize God operating in our lives today, we have to know His voice. That is why those who are serious about their relationship with God will find retreats, recollections, bible studies, personal and communal prayer important in their lives. They would spend time and money in order to join these opportunities to get to know God objectively and personally in their lives. God has a unique way of dealing with our personalities and it is therefore important to know how He moves and relates with us.
Second, to belong to the Shepherd is to know the criteria He uses to filter those who are allowed to enter the gate. Conversely, it is what He uses to reject those who do not fall under the category. I learned about gatekeeping as a student of mass communication. Gatekeeping was first introduced in 1947 by Kurt Lewin who is a social psychologist. In human communication and journalism, the term, gatekeeping, refers to the process in which ideas and information are filtered for publication. It is a decision-making process of relaying and withholding information for media and mass consumption. This process begins from a reporter filtering which stories to report on, to the publicist deciding which stories to print.
The same way with our lives of faith. A flux of information, the seduction of different forms of entertainment, the variety of worldviews, the pressure from friends and colleagues --- all of these would require a certain filtering. Which of these would you accept or reject? Which would you adapt as a life principle or a value. Which would you find unacceptable? The criteria for Christians is simple: that which is consistent with Jesus are the ones we accept, and the disvalues according to Jesus are the ones we don’t. Jesus is the Way. The second point therefore is about making decisions through a daily discernment.
Finally, to belong to the Shepherd is to enter His world. The movie, Stardust, has a gatekeeper who guards the forbidden wall that separates another world from the rest of England. Tristan (Charlie Cox) discovers the world where his father once entered. Eternal life rewards those who belong to the Shepherd, but it also means that we too would adapt the lifestyle of those who belong there --- it becomes our world too. Just as ‘heaven’ to the sheep means being with their shepherd, “heaven” to us is being with Christ. The final point therefore is about being identified and marked by Christ. Being with Christ and becoming like Him.
Posted by Unknown at Sunday, April 13, 2008