HOMILY for 4th Mon of Easter
In the Old Testament, God is referred to as the Shepherd of Israel (cf Ps 80:1, Eze 34). But the notion that the one God favours one nation, one people, and sets them aside to make them holy is gradually expanded to include all of humanity, both Jews and non-Jews; Jew and Gentile alike. Hence, in today’s First Reading, St Peter recounts how the Holy Spirit descended on the Gentiles in the same way that he descended on the Jews at Pentecost (cf Acts 2). So, it is clear that people from every nation, of every race, language, people and culture are called into God’s sheepfold, an “Israel of the Spirit” as the great Jesuit theologian Henri de Lubac put it, through faith in Jesus Christ.
And Christ is the reason that God’s call to holiness, once given just to Israel now encompasses every human person. For what was initially given through the Law of Moses and the wisdom of the patriarchs is now given to all through Jesus Christ who embodies and perfects the Law, and who is the Wisdom of God made flesh. For in Christ, God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, united himself for ever to our common humanity so that through his Incarnation, Jesus now claims all humanity for God. We belong to him, we are the “sheep of his pasture” (Ps 99:3), and every human person is now called to enjoy “life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). Because if our humanity is united to Jesus Christ, then we also share in his divinity. And God’s divine nature is life itself in its fullest abundance and perfection.
As Jesus alone – and no other – is true God and true Man, so only through Jesus can humankind be united to God. Thus, he alone is the gate to eternal life and the happiness and peace of heaven. As Jesus says in today’s Gospel: “I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (Jn 10:9). There is no other way to salvation, then, for Jesus is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6).
Christ also says that he “calls his own sheep by name and leads them out”. And this is precisely what it means to be Christ’s Church. Because the Greek New Testament word that is translated as ‘church’ or ‘assembly’ is ekklesia, meaning ‘those who are called out’. Hence, we, the Church, are a gathering, an assembly, a calling-together of those have been “brought out” of the world, or even out of other religions, by Christ into a living relationship with him who alone can save us. He “goes before” [us] so that we can follow him, listening to his voice which calls each of us by name (cf Jn 10:4). If we follow Jesus throughout our lives and are not misled by other voices – by the Thief, that is, the devil and his lies – then Christ, our Good Shepherd, will lead us to enter into the living pastures of heaven.
Therefore, as St Ignatius of Antioch put it, Christ is “the door of the Father, through which have entered Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, prophets and apostles and the Church, and all of them to the unity of God”.