Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Lectionary: 280

But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep.
My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father's hand.
The Father and I are one."

On Sunday we began a series of readings from John 10. Jesus speaks both of his relationship with the Father and of his mission as Shepherd. His identity is Son and Shepherd; while they are certainly different relationships, they are inextricably woven into one another. He can no more abandon his flock than he can deny who he is or refuse the Father’s love.

His statement, “No one can take them out of my hand.” sounds like an assertion of his power. It is certainly meant to reassure us. “God is still in charge!” we like to say when we are challenged by insurmountable difficulties.

But as a disciple of the Saint who avoided all worldly power, I always want to put quotation marks around the word when I consider the “power” Jesus wielded.

Let’s try this: there are two kinds of power. The more common one is the power to force people to do what I want them to do. Perhaps they are willing; perhaps not; but I make the decision and they comply. I have money; people give me what I want in exchange for my money, provided I give them enough. Money is power.

This power to make people do what I want them to do may be more barbaric, as when I use threats, torture or brute force to force people to do what I want. The whole world has seen – or should have seen – that God renounced that kind of power. The Son of God preferred crucifixion to forcing others to do what he wants.

The other kind of power is love. Saint Augustine said, “The heart is drawn to love as iron is drawn to a magnet.” Seeing the cross and knowing what it means we find his love “irresistible.” (The quotation marks have reappeared. Foolishly, to their grief and shame, many resist the cross.)

Held in the bondage of love by the Father and the Son, we experience an astonishing paradox: we have both freedom and security. There is no power in heaven or earth that can take us from the Father’s hand. The martyrs and our Risen Savior have shown us that. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.