Once we lived in a land of abundance: goods, opportunities, employment and possibility. With one swift blow, the coronavirus changed all that. Suddenly, the voices we noticed, heard, responded to and questioned were different. And as the days wore into weeks, we grew weary of the ambiguity, of those voices and then of each other. And yet, we were adapting the entire time, adjusting to circumstance and need, practicing gratitude and empathy in ways we had not quite envisioned. Somehow, we are becoming better than we were before. This is the space we are walking in as May unfolds, and this is the week that we’re invited to hear a new voice, to see the real gate to the future.
The Gospel for Sunday, May 3, 2020, is from John 10, and it shares Jesus’s description of himself as the shepherd, the familiar voice, and then the gate. He uses metaphors and opens the venue for choice, expresses the importance of response, of movement. He is speaking still as we wander into this new culture born of the pandemic and he is waiting as we find our way, there as a visible gate. But the Gospel bears the comforting thought that He is here, with us, and we are not navigating alone. The presence of a God who invites action, defines purpose, and empowers in the midst of confusion and change is an overhwelming testimony to God’s love and concern for us. It is there, in the ackowledgment of who we are, that Jesus is most present. This is not a god demanding tribute or adherence; it is a god re-defining what it means to be truly human. His faithfulness, his guidance, his gentleness and steadfastness stream through the words straight into open hearts. He will not abandon us even if we abandon Him. The shepherd’s strength is sourced in the humility of believing that every sheep matters.
That message speaks to our time with a vibrant hope. We are re-discovering who we are and what we are about; in doing so, we must dare to re-discover the voice of Jesus calling out to us. Listening, in this time of odd and awkward silences, is a tool of the heart and the soul. It is about the way we choose to use our time, the way we begin to believe that there is something beyond what eye can perceive and ear can hear. Listening demands space in this new world, to hear the heartbeat of what our lives have become and trust what our lives can be for one another. Listening strengthens the resolve to take action, to locate the gate. And that means discerning the difference between the familiar and the strange. Jesus leaves that task in our hands. It requires work, exploration, discussion, decision-making; it is about openness and flexibility and relationships.
It would appear, then, that even in the midst of the foggy brains of lockdowns and quarantines, it is necessary to spare the time to work at understanding what is happening, and why, and how we can make a difference. Jesus looks after us as a shepherd; the least we can do is look after one another in the same way.