Gospel: John 10.11-18
In the reading from John’s gospel we hear Jesus’ statement: “I am the good
shepherd” and we are given an insight into what it means to be “the good shepherd”.
This good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A shepherd who would go out
and seek those sheep who were not yet part of the fold and bring them home. How?
They would listen to his voice and come home. As Jesus returns to his father he
commissions his disciples to “Go and make disciples of all nations baptising them in
the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” He promises that he will be with
them to the end of the age – Matthew 28: 16-20.
The second reading reminds us that Jesus laid down his life for us – and we ought to
lay down our lives for one another. How? Not only in words or speech but in action.
This is where our call to be disciples is to be more than just words, we need to be
people of action. Laying down our lives so that we can be used by God to go and seek
out those who are yet to become part of God’s kingdom. We are to learn how to love
them and teach them how to hear, recognise and follow the shepherds’ voice of welcome
In the Acts reading, Peter models the stepping out in faith. He is turned from a man
denying Christ to a man full of the Holy Spirit standing and pointing people to Jesus –
and many listened.
We are called into this same ministry – to be people who know that we are filled with
the Holy Spirit – commissioned by Jesus to go out, to be and to show the love that
God has for all, so that there will be one flock led by one shepherd. As we move from
Easter and look toward Pentecost, may we be ready to be filled anew with the gift of
God’s Holy Spirit, and ready to use the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit to go out
make disciples as commissioned by Jesus.
Gospel: John 20.19-31
Reflection: The Greeting of Peace
The Greeting of Peace, too often in our churches, becomes a free-for-all of greetings and
gossip. We forget its origin and deep meaning. Today’s gospel reading tells us of the origin of
the Greeting of Peace. Nowhere in the Bible or in the life of Jesus till now is the phrase, ‘Peace
be with you’ used. It instantly became the sign of Christian fellowship, and we continue the
practice today. St Paul begins all of his thirteen letters with the phrase (mostly in the form,
‘Grace and peace be with you’). In the Eucharist, the Greeting of Peace follows the Confession
and Absolution. I like it best when it follows immediately. Then, as confessed and forgiven
Christians, we can look one another in the eye, recognising our equal identity before Christ,
and asking the blessing of the Lord on each other. ‘Peace be with you,’ we say, and ‘And also
with you,’ we reply. It’s a way of bringing us together, and it began here, as we hear in the
gospel for today, with Jesus, risen from the clutches of death, drawing the disciples into his
presence and fellowship with those words, ‘Peace be with you.’ I don’t think the disciples
would have said anything in reply. They would have been too thunderstruck! The liturgical
reply came later.
Peace be with you.
The coinciding of Easter and April Fool’s Day.
God’s plan to save the world. Let your only son exchange the
power and glory of heaven for the vulnerability and risk of
becoming human and being born in one of the most dangerous
times and places in human history. Let him be misrepresented and die a
criminal’s death. Yes, Saint Paul is right to identify a seeming foolishness in the
salvation plan of God and a seeming foolishness in those who would follow
such a ‘foolhardy’ messiah.
Most of us, when we undertake a significant project, count up our resources
and allies—all those things of power that we can muster and marshal—all the
reliable supports we can count on. Jesus’ way is, on some level, completely
contrary to the way we plan things. “He emptied himself, taking the form of a
slave, being born in human likeness.”
Of the way of the Cross, St Paul writes, in his First Letter to the Corinthians
chapter 1 verses 18-31,
18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of
this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in
the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided,
through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For
Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ
crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those
who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the
wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s
weakness is stronger than human strength.
26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by
human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble
birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God
chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;28God chose what is low
and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that
are, 29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30He is the source of
your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and
righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is
written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’
Paul’s language of foolishness is strong here. The Greek word he uses six
times in this brief passage is moros—from it we derive the English word
moron. Imagine the text with the word “moronic” every time you see
“foolish”—and you feel the strength of what Paul is implying about how the
world might view the Christian message and those who follow Jesus.
And yet this is the way of God—to choose the moronic in the world to shame
The battles for salvation will not be won by the size of the army, nor the
number of horses, nor by the peer-reviewed intellectual resources we can
muster, the number of QCs we can afford to hire—God will use the weak in
the world to shame the strong; “God chose what is low and despised in the
world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no
one might boast.”
On Easter morning we celebrate a victory not won by power or might—but by
the gentle perseverance of Christ’s righteousness, compassion, humility,
obedience and gentleness. “Put away your sword,” Jesus counsels Peter in
the Garden at his arrest. And he calls his followers to do the same. To walk in
all righteousness, compassion, humility, obedience and gentleness. “Utter
foolishness!” cries the world, “An excellent plan for losing!”, “Morons!” Yes.
Because we love the ‘fool’ from heaven more than we worship the wisdom of
Taking the corner and turning into Lent.
Candlemas is a lesser known feast—also known as the
feast of ‘The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple’—it is always kept
on 2 February, forty days after Christmas Day (Luke 2:22, Leviticus
12:2-6). Because Candlemas can never fall in Lent (the earliest
possible Ash Wednesday is 4 February), one of the purposes of
Candlemas is to ‘signpost’ the approach of the ‘corner’ between
Christmas and Easter. Part of the responsorial liturgy of Candlemas
“Here we bring to an end our celebration of the Saviour’s birth.
Help us, in whom he has been born,
to live this life that has no end.
Here we have greeted the Light of the World.
Help us, who now extinguish these candles,
never to forsake the light of Christ.
Some candles are extinguished.
Here we now stand near the place of baptism.
Help us, who are marked with the cross,
to share the Lord’s death and resurrection.
Here we turn from Christ’s birth to his passion.
Help us, for whom Lent is near,
to enter deeply into the Easter mystery.”
There are other ‘signposts’ to help us to turn the corner into Lent.
On Shrove Tuesday, we feast on pancakes with eggs and leaven and
sugar in preparation for the great fast of Lent, but we also burn the
Palm Crosses of the year before to prepare the ashes of repentance
for their use on the following day—Ash Wednesday. We remove
flowers from the church and change the liturgical colours from
green to purple. And so with all these signposts and symbols, we
‘take the corner’, turning from Christmas and Epiphanytide to
Lent, Good Friday and Easter. Taking that corner well shows our
preparedness to follow Jesus in his wholeness: not just followers
of the bits of Jesus we find most palatable. Not just followers of
the Babe of Bethlehem, but followers of the man who walks a road
of controversy and hardship, passion and crucifixion, and
The disciples sometimes found it hard to ‘take the corner’ toward
the suffering and death of Christ: when Jesus in the Gospels first
announces his destiny to suffer, and be rejected by the elders and
chief priests and the scribes, and to be killed—Simon Peter
rebukes Jesus. (We read this Gospel in the second week of Lent).
But it is essential that we—Jesus’ followers—travel with him on
the harder road of Lent, Good Friday as well as Easter. Only then
can he be our complete Christ—not just a Messiah for “fair
weather”—“when the sun’s shining down on me, and the world’s
all as it should be”—but a Saviour who can be our faithful
companion when the going is tough, when illness or grief or loss
loom. Then together, with our faithful Christ, we can anticipate
that most bright and glorious morn of Easter Day.
Gospel: Mark 1.9-15
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan.
10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the
Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son,
whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’ 12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the
wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was
with the wild animals, and angels attended him. 14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went
into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom
of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’
The opening Gospel is packed with treasures to carry with us on our Lenten Journey.
There is the humility of Jesus as he submits himself to John for Baptism. There is the violent
rending of the heavens in order that the full Trinitarian identity of God can be revealed.
There is the violent casting of Jesus by the Spirit into the wilderness—in Mark’s Gospel time of
withdrawal and contemplation always bears fruit. Jesus comes out of the wilderness with clarity
of vision and purpose: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent
and believe.” There is, in the economy of God, a fullness in having nothing. In the wilderness
the angels (and perhaps the wild beasts too) ministered to Jesus. As we read from Paul on Ash
Wednesday. “We are treated as having nothing and yet we possess everything.”