What does it mean to believe? Recently I asked that question at a Bible study. At first there was an awkward silence and trepidation among the group, but eventually someone chimed in, “Belief has to do with the things I hold dear to my heart.” I appreciated her answer, and it struck a chord with me as I reflected on the things (people, ideas, and places) that mattered most to me.
When I read John’s words, “If our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him” (NIV), I think of parishioners who have shared their stories of unanswered prayers with me. I sympathized with them as they recounted their bewilderment. From all accounts, those faithful persons loved Jesus and loved others yet their prayers went unanswered. So how could they continue to have confidence in praying to God? How could they continue to believe?
John “believes” that if we obey Jesus’ commands, we will have his assurance and presence living in us. God, through Jesus Christ, does not turn away from the predicament of being human with all its limitations and its dreams and desires. God knows the pitfalls and stumbling blocks we encounter. If belief is entrusting what matters most to us in this life, shouldn’t we be able to let go of our fears and uncertainties, trusting that the things that matter most to us also matter to God? Holding on to things tends to bring forth anxiety and bondage. The shepherd, who adores each one of the sheep, wants us to experience freedom from that bondage. We can always trust God to guide us through the challenging terrain of our heart’s desires.
God, the shepherd of my heart, help me to rely on your promises of love, acceptance, and hope. Amen.
This week’s readings open with a confrontation in Acts between Peter and John and some of the religious leaders. Peter speaks in harsh terms to the leaders, stating that they had killed Jesus; yet by the power of Jesus’ name, a man who could not walk has been healed. By that same name spiritual healing happens as well. The other three passages employ the metaphor of the Good Shepherd. “The Lord is my shepherd,” the psalmist declares, and the shepherd cares for all our needs. In John’s Gospel, Jesus declares that he is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. First John repeats this imagery. Jesus proved his love when he lay down his life for us. If we truly love one another, we also ought to sacrifice in tangible ways
Read Acts 4:5-12. When have you gotten into difficulty for exercising your Christian faith and values? If never, why not?
Read Psalm 23. What is your first memory of hearing or reading this psalm? Has it had a significant role in your life of faith? If so, what has its role been?
Read 1 John 3:16-24. How do your actions reflect your love for God and for your fellow children of God?
Read John 10:11-18. What “wolves” have you faced in your life? How have you experienced the presence of the Good Shepherd with you as you faced these threats?
Responda publicando una oración.