Cusp-a point of transition, as from one historical period to the next;
the borders between the twelve astrological signs.
You are considered to be "on the cusp" if you were born
within a day or two of the beginning or end of any sign.

The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak, 1863; Albert Bierstadt

14 May 2011

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Readings of the Day

Adé Béthune

The sheep hear his voice,
as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
When he has driven out all his own,
he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him,
because they recognize his voice.
Dale Carnegie, motivational guru, and author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, wrote several sure fire methods for dealing with people to achieve positive results. Over the years he studied people’s behavior, and collected anecdotes of people who had success in business and politics to illustrate his observations. One of his observations was that people love to hear the sound of their own name. Carnegie developed a way to help remember names, which I still have yet to master. If I could remember it I’d share it with you. I offer my apologies to any of you who have introduced yourself to me, and I still can’t manage to remember your names. It’s not that I don’t try. I have actually spent hours with the picture directory, trying to learn names and faces only to have forgotten them by the next time I run into someone.
One person who I thought had an astonishing ability to remember names was the late Bishop James Hoffman. After what I thought was a fairly inconsequential first meeting with him, I was amazed when at every time we had a chance meeting thereafter, he still remembered my name. It made me feel special that the bishop actually knew me by name. This is the kind of image we see in the gospel: Jesus calling his sheep by name, and they follow at the sound of his voice. “The shepherd calls sheep by name and the magnificent God of the universe calls each of us by name. Through Jesus, God knows each and every one of us better than we know ourselves. The name he confirms for each of us finds its way down to the deepest interior of our souls. Through it he calls us to be most truly who we are, in our own self and in God. (Foley)
Blesséd be God
O blesséd be God
Who calls you by name
Holy and chosen one
This Sunday has traditionally has been called “Good Shepherd Sunday” because of the gospel reading. This was rooted in the ancient Church’s tradition of continuing catechesis of the newly baptized during the period of mystagogy that lasted until Pentecost. “The goal of this period was to engage the newly baptized in a more profound experience of the paschal mystery both on an intellectual level as well as on the level of lived personal experience.”  “Both initiates and veteran believers are invited to enter this mystagogia and thereby to be renewed in the dignity and challenge of Christian baptism. “ “In this excerpt from the John’s Good Shepherd discourse, the evangelist counsels Christians concerning the necessity of being attuned to the voice of authenticity and truth: “the sheep hear his voice as he calls his own by name.” The integrity of the faith and of the ongoing formation of baptized believers must be rooted in the call of Christ as preserved in scripture and the tradition of the Spirit-led church. (Sanchez)
How do we recognize the sound of Christ calling us by name? How do we respond to that call?  How do we follow where the shepherd leads us?
The Twenty-third Psalm is probably one of the best known of all the psalms. In it we can hear the response of a follower of Christ.
The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me,
to revive my drooping spirit.

He guides me along the right path;
he is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
with these you give me comfort.

You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing.

Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord's own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever.--Grail Psalms

“In describing the Lord as a shepherd, David wrote out of his own experience because he had spent his early years caring for sheep. Sheep are completely dependent on the Shepherd for provision, guidance, and protection.” One of the oldest and most enduring images of Christ is that of the Good Shepherd. “As the Lord is the good shepherd, so we are his sheep -- not frightened, passive animals, but obedient followers, wise enough to follow one who will lead us in the right places and in right ways. This psalm does not focus on the animal-like qualities of sheep, but on the discipleship qualities of those who follow. When you recognize the good shepherd, follow him!
 “When we allow God our shepherd to guide us, we have contentment. When we choose to sin, however, we go our own way and cannot blame God for the environment we create for ourselves. Our shepherd knows the "green pastures" and "quiet waters" that will restore us. We will reach these places only by following him obediently. Rebelling against the shepherd's leading is actually rebelling against our own best interests. We must remember this the next time we’re tempted to go our own way rather than the shepherd's way.
“Death casts a frightening shadow over us because we are entirely helpless in its presence. We can struggle with other enemies -- pain, suffering, disease, injury -- but strength and courage cannot overcome death. It has the final word. Only one person can walk with us through death's dark valley and bring us safely to the other side -- the God of life, our shepherd. Because life is uncertain, we should follow this shepherd who offers us eternal comfort.
 “In ancient Near Eastern culture, at a banquet it was customary to anoint a person with fragrant oil as a lotion. Hosts were also expected to protect their guests at all costs. God offers the protection of a host even when enemies surround us. In the final scene of this psalm, we see that believers will dwell with God. God, the perfect shepherd and host, promises to guide and protect us through life to bring us into his house forever.” (Life Application Bible-NIV)
Today at the table the Lord has spread out for us, let us come to be nourished so that we may faithfully walk in our “dark valleys” and come to the place where we may “have life and have it more abundantly.”

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