8 May 2017
The apostles and the brothers in Judaea heard that the pagans too had accepted the word of God, and when Peter came up to Jerusalem the Jews criticised him and said, ‘So you have been visiting the uncircumcised and eating with them, have you?’ Peter in reply gave them the details point by point: ‘One day, when I was in the town of Jaffa,’ he began ‘I fell into a trance as I was praying and had a vision of something like a big sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners. This sheet reached the ground quite close to me. I watched it intently and saw all sorts of animals and wild beasts – everything possible that could walk, crawl or fly. Then I heard a voice that said to me, “Now, Peter; kill and eat!” But I answered: Certainly not, Lord; nothing profane or unclean has ever crossed my lips. And a second time the voice spoke from heaven, “What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane.” This was repeated three times, before the whole of it was drawn up to heaven again.
‘Just at that moment, three men stopped outside the house where we were staying; they had been sent from Caesarea to fetch me, and the Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going back with them. The six brothers here came with me as well, and we entered the man’s house. He told us he had seen an angel standing in his house who said, “Send to Jaffa and fetch Simon known as Peter; he has a message for you that will save you and your entire household.”
‘I had scarcely begun to speak when the Holy Spirit came down on them in the same way as it came on us at the beginning, and I remembered that the Lord had said, “John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” I realised then that God was giving them the identical thing he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ; and who was I to stand in God’s way?’
This account satisfied them, and they gave glory to God. ‘God’ they said ‘can evidently grant even the pagans the repentance that leads to life.’
‘I am the good shepherd:
the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep.
The hired man, since he is not the shepherd
and the sheep do not belong to him,
abandons the sheep and runs away
as soon as he sees a wolf coming,
and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep;
this is because he is only a hired man
and has no concern for the sheep.
‘I am the good shepherd;
I know my own
and my own know me,
just as the Father knows me
and I know the Father;
and I lay down my life for my sheep.
And there are other sheep I have
that are not of this fold,
and these I have to lead as well.
They too will listen to my voice,
and there will be only one flock,
and one shepherd.
‘The Father loves me,
because I lay down my life
in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me;
I lay it down of my own free will,
and as it is in my power to lay it down,
so it is in my power to take it up again;
and this is the command I have been given by my Father.’
I am the good shepherd
There is a provision shop in the block of flats where I live and over the years, it has gone through many changes of hand. The owner was initially present and he was responsible for the opening and closing of the shop. This meant that he would begin operations as early as 6am in the morning and close only at 11pm in the evening. To avoid oversleeping, he would sleep within the shop space just to make sure that he could open the shop on time. Years went by and he handed the shop to his son, who leased it out to someone else. One noticeable thing was that the operating hours became shorter and there was a lack of ownership of the way he carried out his business. The readings of today, especially the Gospel, remind us of the need to remain faithful to the good shepherd who is Jesus Christ.
Some of us may feel that as faithful Christians, we may have faith in the one true God and hence will not be distracted by others who are non-believers. However, I have come to realise that the hired man does not need to take the shape of a human being, but could come very subtly in the form of pride, jealousy and envy. These capital sins do not start out as capital sins but mask themselves as a desire to do good for others. Like a parasite, it then leeches on our soul and then consumes us totally by making us want to feed it. In doing so, we lose focus on Jesus Christ, the good shepherd who stands ready to save us.
Like the hired man which I shared earlier, there is a lack of ownership of our lives because we do not let the Master of our life, Jesus Christ, take control of every action which we do. Jesus knows the paths we take some times lead us away from what He has asked from us but He respects our decision. He does not give up on us but sends various people to come and remind us to stay close to Him. As we continue with our lives, I ask that we set aside time today to examine our souls and find out if there are any issues in our lives which are preventing us from coming closer to God.
(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer: Come Holy Spirit into our hearts, to melt away all the areas which have been hardened by sin.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who help others find meaning in life.