The Rev’d Penny Body
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Reflection 9th May 2022
The Gospel – John 10.1-10,
10‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ 6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7 So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
We have for our reading today perhaps one of the most well-known and loved passages in the gospels – and there is so much in it to ponder upon. However, I’m just going to take the very last sentence “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly” to reflect on today.
Jesus’s wonderful amazing promise to us – that he came that we may have life. But what I wonder does abundant life mean to you?
We can have a very busy life – full of good works, friends, family, work we do domestically and to earn a living, hobbies and so on – this would give us a very full life – but is it life in all its fullness – as this verse is sometimes translated?
Then there is the saying that he or she “lived life to the full” – sometimes even used in the context of Jesus’s words. But sometimes this can just mean the person concerned lived a life full of excitement – of travel – fun and parties – and dare I say it sometimes rather exuberant indulgence in “wine, women and song”! But whilst such things can certainly be enjoyable – and holidays and rest are really important for our wellbeing – the test is whether these things leave us with a lasting sense of fulfilment – of peace or joy – or do the memories sometimes fade away leaving us feeling a bit empty?
The life – in all its abundance – fullness – that Jesus brings is special. It can be found nowhere else but in him. It can be difficult to describe in words – yet once experienced is known and recognised.
In Ignatian spirituality – as I am sure you have heard me say before – we are encouraged to “Choose Life” whenever faced with different courses of action, thought or word. And to discern Jesus’s life we are encouraged to reflect on how we feel. Does a particular scenario, in the future or the past, make us feel as if we are being drawn closer to God? Do we feel a sense of his deep peace? Perhaps his joy rising inside us like a spring of living water? Do we feel drawn to someone or something in compassion seeing with Jesus’s eyes for the poor, the broken hearted and the marginalised? Do we feel awed and awakened with an understanding of the beauty and complexity of his created world? Do we feel energised, enlivened, encouraged? Do we feel loved – and safe in the knowledge of God’s unconditional love for us? Are we flourishing like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field?
Or conversely do we feel drawn away from God, driven or distressed. Do we feel dry within? Perplexed, muddled, confused? Do we feel shut down or shut away? These things are the opposite of Jesus’s life and represent the death he saved us from.
Recognising this, and consciously turning our hearts, souls and minds back to him, trusting in and praying for his mercy and compassion will bring us back from darkness to light and life.
This is not to say that life ever can or will always be a bowl of cherries. Sometimes it is hard. Worries and anxieties come along. We – and people we love become ill. We lose people we love and grief can seem never ending. And yet even in these circumstances – if we can feel close to God, if we can feel his peace, his arms around us, his support to comfort us, then we can still live in his life.
Through his forgiveness, through restoring us into our relationship of love as children of our heavenly father, and through his teaching, and in the power of His Holy Spirit, Jesus enables us to live life abundantly – in him and through him.
The Collect for the 4th Sunday of Easter
whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life:
raise us, who trust in him,
from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,
that we may seek those things which are above,
where he reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen