Sunday Week 4 of Easter Year B

This is the one day of the year I wish I was a vegetarian. It’s a problem for me sitting at Sunday lunch eating my roast meat because it puts me in mind of just what it is to be a sheep. Being a sheep is all about the slaughter. I don’t like to think of Jesus as the Good Shepherd because, of course, then I’m a sheep and however well shepherded I might be I know it’s all to keep me fit and fat for the table. In the paintings the Good Shepherd is always carrying the lamb tenderly close to his heart but Sunday lunch reminds me that all the same it is a lamb led to the slaughter.

The symbol of the Passover lamb only makes it worse. The slaughter becomes sacrifice. Give the sheep a brain for a moment and wonder whether it would come quietly, whether it would be a willing sacrifice, and what it would think of the butcher who cuts its throat in worship.

There’s something deeply disturbing about Jesus the Good Shepherd. I can only hear him speak of himself that way with a deep irony. But Jesus claims the title of Good Shepherd because he lays down his life for his sheep. It is by putting himself in the sheep’s stead that he shepherds them. The only Good Shepherd is the one who becomes a sheep, the lamb of God.
Which gives the Passover lamb a strange new sense. Instead of a sheep going unknowingly to its sacrificial death we have the shepherd laying down his life freely. No one takes it from him!

And instead of the cruel allegation that killing sheep keeps God happy – we have God, in person, dismantling the sacrificial system from inside by entering it, not as one who demands sacrifice, but as one who would rather be sacrificed than collude with it. If there is going to be sacrifice – even religious sacrifice – Jesus shows us God has no taste for it and in the Resurrection God rejects it.

Whenever we do violence in God’s name, however well-intentioned, however hidden or holy, we give God a voice Jesus would never recognise. No wonder the world complains God is silent or violent or bad.

Jesus goes to his death so we might recognise God, know God’s true voice, and in the process find our own.

4 replies on “Sunday Week 4 of Easter Year B”

  1. Good Day Father,

    Trying to make sense of suffering and sacrifice in my life lateley. Your homily was very comforting. I was wondering if you see any truth in the first quote and if you could comment on how it may parallel the second, from John’s gospel.

    Thanks Cathy

    To choose a hardship for ourselves is our
    only defense against that hardship. This is
    what is meant by accepting suffering.
    Those who, by their very nature, can suffer
    completely, utterly, have an advantage.
    That is how we can disarm the power of
    suffering, make it our own creation, our
    own choice; submit to it.

    Cesare Pavese (1908-1950) Italian
    poet, critic, novelist, and translator.

    This is why the Father loves me,
    because I lay down my life in order to
    take it up again.
    No one takes it from me, but I lay it down
    on my own.
    I have power to lay it down, and power to
    take it up again.
    This command I have received from my

    John 10:17-18

  2. Cathy: I’m finding it hard to comment on the Pavese quote without some more context. And I guess that’s the issue. Jesus chooses at many points in his life to avoid suffering or to confront its causes but at this passionate point he enters into it freely laying down his life. Why now and not before? When is suffering and sacrifice an evil to be opposed wholeheartedly and when is it only to be disarmed by choosing it?
    I think there are two modes of answering that: one can look for general answers or particular ones. At the first level I’d want to wonder what the alternative is? What choices are open to me and what are not? Jesus suffers politically and religiously–he is put to death for a cause and unjustly–and he chooses to embrace that rather than revolt, or raise an army, or run away, or recant. The God he loves is at stake. Too often embracing suffering is encouraged in a way that reinforces the status quo rather than undermining it. Jesus words are clear–that he lays down his life to take it up again. That embracing suffering and hardship must always be an act of life and an act of love.
    The second level of answer is about discernment. There are no convincing general rules. What it comes down to is what, in this particular, contingent circumstance is God’s desire and hope for me and my life. And can I desire it too. I don’t mean some fatalistic acceptance of ‘God’s Will’ but some active engagement with the depths of my heart and God’s heart that opens up a path of life which compels me.
    I suspect I’ve not really answered your query…

  3. Father
    Thanks foryour response. I think i was feeling somewhat apathetic with life when I came across that first quote. Sometimes it is easier to belive that what we choose in life makes no difference because then we don’t have to make a change. i.e., it is easier to go with the flow than swim upstream.

    Your answer reminds me that what I say and do truly do matter and that even if we choose to do nothing in certain situations that choice will have consequences.

    Hope that makes sense

Comments are closed.