Year A: Fourth Sunday of Easter
Second Reading: 1 Peter 2: 20-25
By happy coincidence, our continuous reading from St Peterís letter offers another sheep and shepherd image.
St Peter reminds his readers that they had gone astray - like sheep without a shepherd. Anyone who has seen sheep grazing on moorland can only marvel at the fact that the skilled shepherd can gather his flock together again.
God saw that we were scattered - and sent His Son to gather us together again. But this shepherd is no hired hand who runs away at the first sign of trouble. This is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep and who protects them from the consequences of their own wanderings. Jesus bore the consequences of our faults on His own body - so that we should die to those faults and live a new life of holiness. He bore the wounds that our sins cause - so that we should be healed.
He did not do this with words of reproach or anger. Rather, in the face of insult and hatred and grievous injury, He was silent. He did not return like for like - even though it was patently obvious that He was suffering unjustly.
St Peter sees in Him a model for ourselves.
We are very quick to complain when we feel we have been treated unjustly. Even when we are suffering the consequences of our own actions, we are inclined to feel that any retribution - or punishment - or inconvenience is not fair.
When we are really being treated unfairly, the temptation to complain bitterly is even stronger - and, we feel, justified!
St Peter is not saying that we are not justified in feeling hurt and angry when this happens - but is suggesting that there might be greater merit in following Jesusí example and bearing it patiently.
Of course, our instinct is to recoil - none of us want to feel that people are walking all over us -and getting away with it!
But, if we look at the example of Jesus, we may have pause for thought.
Were Jesus torturers really getting the better of Him? They may have destroyed His body - but did they destroy Him?
And what of those who hurled insult at Him - did they feel any better because He did not retaliate -or were they left feeling uneasy and aware that the sin still rested in them because He had given them no justification for doing what they were doing?
Jesus is our model and our guide... the challenge is to follow His example.
What does it mean for me?
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