The Good Shepherd by Michael Dudash
Acts 11:19-26; John 10:22-30
Our readings today focus our attention on being open to the word of God, being confident in our faith, and then rejoicing in the comfort of God’s message. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Luke tells of the disbursement of the disciples following the death of Stephen through martyrdom. I cannot imagine the fear that the disciples felt as they scattered throughout the lands of Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch to proclaim Jesus as Lord. Would others listen?
Would they be ostracized? Possibly killed as well? Despite the fear of persecution and death, their belief in Jesus was so strong that they were compelled to spread the word to not only the Jews, but to the Greeks and Gentiles as well. God must have certainly been working through the disciples since the message was so positive and inspiring that a “great number” turned to God. In fact, Barnabas, who was sent from the church of Jerusalem, was so impressed and heartened by the disciples’ work that he rejoiced and encouraged their good words and acts. He then recruited Saul to come to Antioch where they both could preach the good news of the Lord. It is so exciting to see the impact of God’s message on those unfamiliar with it. I think it helps to be reminded of God’s message as we progress through our day and week, especially when things are tough and we begin to question our faith and what it’s all about. That is where our second reading provides the comfort and the guidance we may need.
In our second reading from John, it is doubt, not faith, in the minds of those around Jesus. Once again, Jesus is questioned about his identity. Essentially, “Just tell us who you are.” Jesus responds by saying that he has told them previously that he and his Father are one, and that this has been shown through his works. Jesus then talks about faith and the importance of not only hearing his voice, but following him. His message is simple - It is through him and his Father that we are cared for and gain eternal life. Have faith in God and allow Him to guide us and we will never perish. Yes, doubt is natural, but by listening to and truly hearing the word of God we gain comfort and inspiration to move beyond. Just as the disciples were able to persevere after persecution and even the death of Stephen, so too can we. Yes, we will continue to confront struggles in our daily lives, but take comfort that we are accompanied by our Father. The message is clear – listen to the word, be strong in faith, and we will be in our Father’s hand. Makes me smile just thinking about it!
By Michael Kavan