Fourth Sunday of Easter

I read about a Florida senior citizen who bought a new Corvette, drove it onto I-95 and soon was speeding at 80 mph. In his rear view mirror, he saw a State Trooper, lights flashing and siren blaring. The man floored the pedal to 90 mph. Suddenly he thought, "What am I doing? I'm too old for this juvenile behavior!" and pulled over.

The trooper walked up and said, "Sir, my shift ends in 30 minutes. If you can give me a new reason for speeding that I've never heard before, I'll let you go." The man paused and then said: "My wife ran off with a State Trooper and I thought you were trying to bring her back to me.  "Have a good day, Sir," replied the trooper.  Now that's creative thinking!

The word of God takes us back to the beginnings of Christianity, to the outpouring of the Spirit upon the disciples, to Peter courageously and boldly proclaiming Jesus is risen and alive, the Messiah, the fulfillment of the hopes of Ancient Israel.

Peter concludes, reform your lives; be baptized; and live an other-centered,  God-centered life. Peter's question to us may be: What kind of life are we living?

The letter of Peter encourages a persecuted community to see Jesus as their model. Suffering is ultimately a mystery. It’s also inescapable—like the other two inescapables of life--guilt and death.  The author here proclaims that the mystery of suffering, accepted in faith, can bring about healing for others. Why so?  Because that’s what the suffering of Jesus did: restored our relationship with God: God in us and we in God!

The Gospel portrays Jesus as the Good Shepherd, the gate into eternal life.  It gives us many images of Jesus.  I am the bread; the vine; the way, the truth and the life; the gate; the door; the resurrection; the good shepherd.  These so-called seven “I am” sayings allude to the divinity of Jesus.

I particularly like the image of Jesus as the “door” to eternal life. We pass through many doors in our lives, don't we? The open door welcomes friends, fresh air and warm light. Yes, we’re open, come on in! The open door is the sure sign that we belong, that we have a place.  And the closed door shelters and protects us.

Architects sometimes spend a great deal of time and money designing the entry or facade in construction projects.  They want to make a statement.  Doors can speak for us, as well.  They can be opened in an act of compassion.  They can be slammed in anger.  In the corporate world, a door may indicate status: power rests with the one who has the key. The doors we pass through may be transitions from fear into safety, from isolation into community, from struggle into peace.  The church door welcomes us into God’s presence.  The courthouse door may be the entry into righting wrongs, seeking  justice  or protecting the common good.  The college/university door is the threshold into learning and discovery. Our own front door is the assurance we are safely home.  

In today’s Gospel, Jesus call himself the “gate,” the entry way to God, the “door” through which we pass from this transitory, fragile earthly life into a transfigured heavenly life.  It’s an evolutionary leap from one kind of existence into another.  On our journey to the fullness of the kingdom of God, Jesus is our gateway into truth, justice, peace and life in all its fullness.  What a magnificent image of Jesus: the door into eternal life.

The Easter season is all about life and hope.  In Jesus' death on Good Friday is hidden his glorious resurrection at Easter. Yes, Jesus Christ lives and because he lives, we live.  The Easter season challenges us to “reset our lives” each day.  Every day is a new beginning.

But how make a fresh start each day?  A best seller titled “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...and Maybe the World” offers us some advice.  The author, William McRaven, led the manhunt that tracked down Osama Bin Laden.  He cites ten little things, life-lessons, that aren't little at all.  Here are some:

--first, make your bed every morning, because when you accomplish one thing early in the day, you'll be motivated to achieve more.  Mothers will love this advice.   The point is: if you don't do the little things right, you won’t do the big things right. Start each day with a task completed.
--and to change the world, find someone to help you paddle, a friend or colleague who can mentor you from goals to achievement because you can't accomplish much on your own.
--third, always measure a person by the size of his heart, not by physical size, skin color, creed or anything else.  Respect everyone. But what matters most is the will to succeed.
--and remember life isn't fair, and that's no reason to cry.  Keep going.  Keep moving forward despite failures, because every life has failures, and what you learn from failures will make you wiser.  Take risks, because life is a struggle, and without challenges, you'll never realize your potential.
--and last, stand up to the bullies. There are a lot of sharks in the world and we have to deal with them.  Above all, in your darkest moments, you have to be your very best—calm and composed and strategic—so that you can bring all your skills of mind and strength of character to bear on the challenge before you. And make others believe in a brighter day.  In other words, never underestimate the power of hope.

Yes,  McRaven's bestseller “Make Your Bed” has life-lessons about how to begin every day.

One person can change the world by giving people hope.  Think, for example, of Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and of course, Jesus Christ. Not all our dreams will come true but some will if we persevere.

The Easter season is about hope; it's about hope in God. To paraphrase the author of the letter of John, what we shall be has not yet been revealed...we shall be like God, for we shall see God as God really is. (1 Jn 3:2)

Yes, at every stage in our earthly pilgrimage through death into eternal life, God is present invisibly.  As St. Paul put it, “at present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.” (1 Cor. 13:12)

Seeing God face to face is the fulfillment of our hope. In the meantime, let us pursue every opportunity, to paraphrase John Wesley, to do all the good we can. By all the means we can. In all the ways we can. In all the places we can.  At all the times we can. To all the people we can.  As long as ever we can.

May our hope in God always guide us to look for the good in people instead of harping on the worst; to discover what can be done, instead of grumbling about what cannot; and to be a good loser because we have the divine assurance of final victory.  Yes, Jesus Christ is risen. And because he lives, we live.

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