Thought for the week - 30 April
Today we are reminded in the Gospel that Jesus is the Gate of the Sheepfold, the gatekeeper who not only lets in the sheep, but keeps them safe as well, one through whom danger has to pass if it is to get to us and savage the flock. And that is one way of looking at it, and a popular one in places of plenty in times of peace, but it’s probably not how the majority of the world would understand this passage.
There is certainly a Gospel imperative to safeguard each other, and to look to the protection and the flourishing of the vulnerable, and that is a duty that we have and will take very seriously, so please don’t misunderstand me when I say that there is no safety offered to us in this life. Instead of hymn books and mass sheets, I sometimes feel that Sidespeople should be handing out crash mats and helmets, such is the impact that the Gospel makes on our lives, for we are called out of darkness to a bright, photostatic light which shows the world as it really is – a place of deceit, savagery, war, racism, hatred and division which is dressed up in the costumes of democracy, rights and choice, when democracy leads to the same ending, rights are spoken of but often not practiced and choice is often between a rock and a hard place. Food or heating this winter? A world war under Labour or the Conservatives? My rights or yours? All of this, like the bloodstained clothes of battle spoken about by Isaiah, is rolled up and consumed in the flames of the intense heat and fire of the presence of God, which presence allows for us to be aflame but not consumed, like the burning bush.
This life changing heat allowed the womb of the Virgin to be aflame, changed but not consumed at the Annunciation, and it allows the Body of Christ alive in the world to be aflame, changed into His image but not consumed, still recognisable because we are not sheep, we are Him. We are not seeking the safety of the sheepfold, but the danger of discipleship, we are not asking to be kept safe, but to be charged to go, make disciples of all nations – with all the ramifications and challenges and threats that might bring.
So today, let’s commit ourselves again to safeguarding the vulnerable, but also to uniting ourselves with the parts of our body who today are struggling in silence to stay alive, who are fighting wars with other nations and tribes or with their own selves, those who have no choice or whose human rights are spoken of but never offered and those who fight to bring peace and truth into a world where neither are easy to fine.
Keep us safe Lord in your Body, for in it we truly have life and through it we have the promise of everlasting life, when we enter our true homeland, where you live and reign over the barrenness of this world. Unlike the Fisher King, we are not sitting by a dry sea, but inviting a dry land to share in the water of life, through Baptism, through which we are saved and made free.