Tag Archives: friendship

7TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, 2018

It was in the New York Times that I read the story of a Jewish rabbi and a world famous financial investor who had met through their wives and had become friends. The investor was born of a Christian family and sang in the choir of his Protestant church in his youth, although he later on gave up religion.

The rabbi’s wife prevailed upon her husband to ask their friend to invest their life’s savings in stocks and bonds. He made the investment, which in 25 years yielded 25 million dollars.

The reason that the two men were featured in the good-size article was that the rabbi and his wife had recently given one third of their fortune to the theological seminary in which he had prepared for his ministry.

The two men were asked how a friendship between such unlike persons had ever begun and then endured for such a long time. The rabbi answered, “We both felt that the business of life is to be decent to one another and to live with compassion and not indifference,”

It’s hard to think of a statement that comes closer to the sentiments of Jesus.

We’ve just completed the many weeks of Easter and Ascension, when the church put before us a Jesus who was preparing his followers for his physical absence, when they would no longer see him or hear him. He is reminding them of what he had taught. He is encouraging them to stay close to him as he is close to the One that he called Father. And he is cautioning them not to be deceived or won over by the world’s spirit of greed and selfishness and idolatry.

If we are going to be faithful to Jesus’ wish for us, we need all the inspirational help that we can get. Jesus said, “Let your good works shine before others so that, when they see them, they too will give glory to God.” I think that also implies that we need to look for and pay close attention to people who are saying things like —

+This war is immoral. Human lives are more precious than a nation’s treasury.

+This doesn’t belong to me. I cannot keep it. I have no right to it.

+We don’t always have to make business decisions. We must also make decisions from the heart. These workers have families and children.

+ She’s gone home to God. She lives, and we can receive from her some of the peace and happiness she now enjoys in perfect union with our Creator.

+Sex is about love. It’s not for domination or intimidation or barter or selfish pleasure.

+A baby is a human being with inalienable rights whether in the womb or outside it.

+Women are as fully human beings as are men. By God’s design they have every right that men have.

+I won’t buy or wear clothes or shoes or anything else that I suspect was made by the slave labor of children and the oppressed poor in third-world countries.

And so on…

We call ourselves sons and daughters of the Resurrection. That cannot mean that the promise of eternal life and happiness in the world-to-come relieves us of responsibility in this mortal life here on earth or allows us to go the world’s self-serving way. Quite the opposite: it imposes on us the heavy responsibility to know the mind and heart of Jesus and to make him the ultimate and practical standard of everything we say and do.

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Fourth Sunday of Easter, 2017

Today, when a free society like ours puts so much stress on personal independence and resourcefulness, Jesus’ reference to his followers as “sheep” may be very jarring to some of them. I think that fewer and fewer people want to look upon themselves as sheep — at least not if that means being mindless followers.

And yet it’s obvious that he doesn’t regard the title as being at all demeaning to us. So what did he have in mind by choosing such a term?

I’ve always assumed it was the strong bond that exists between the sheep and their shepherd. He knows them individually by name, loves them tenderly, cares for them as he cares for himself. He identifies them also by the unique, sometimes odd or funny, characteristics they display.

In return, the sheep trust and in their own way love the shepherd. They feel secure in his presence and somehow know that their good is his primary concern. There is no question here of manipulation or control, no surrendering of right or freedom. It is, rather, the very person of the shepherd in whom the sheep find their fullest selves. They are happier, healthier and more alive when he is there. Actually, they would be incomplete without the love they exchange with him.

I believe that is what Jesus is stressing above all in this homely analogy he uses: that because there are no limits to the loving concern of the shepherd for the sheep, there are no limits to the depth of life the sheep can achieve.

We should expect, I’d say, that in an age of unprecedented exploration like our own, we would find ourselves going not only outward and upward but inward, too. And that is precisely what’s happening. The same civilization that reaches out into the strange and uncharted realms of space looks into itself as well and into the fascinating mystery of the human person. Prayer movements, that seem to be increasing in number and membership today, center both on the corporate person of the community and the private person of the individual. All kinds of people, from every walk of life imaginable, are reporting finding up-to-now unrealized strength and peace by entering prayerfully into themselves in regular meditation with others.

The Good Shepherd offers us a friendship, a relationship, so deep and personal that in it we can resolve life’s most distressing problems and discover what good can and will come from them. No one is really free who feels trapped by the futility of life’s tragic happenings. But the Good Shepherd, having experienced himself the life-death-life continuum has earned the authority to reassure us that the patience and perseverance with which we carry our crosses lead us, invariably, to a new sharing in the love and life of God.

We profess Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to be the gateway to life. We have only to work at knowing him better by listening to the words he has spoken, by being present to him in silent expectation, and by learning to think about, and to interpret, life as he does. He calls us, not to conformity and slavery, but to freedom and unfettered life!