4th Sunday of Easter
EASTER 4TH SUNDAY
Acts 4: 8-12 1Jn. 3:1-2 Jn. 10: 11-18
God’s knowledge of us has got various implications for our lives.
Being the ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’, today’s Gospel enumerates some of the characteristics of Jesus, our Good Shepherd. Laying down His life for the sheep, gathering them into one flock, giving life abundantly, knowing His sheep thoroughly are some of the characteristics of this Great Shepherd. Among these traits, we shall take only one and dwell deeply into it so that we too may resemble Him more and more in our life. Jesus says that he knows his sheep and they in turn know Him. What does he mean when he says that ‘he knows us’? It could mean at least three things.
(1) To know is to be aware: When we ask someone, “Who are you?”, the usual replies are: “My name is So.& So.” or “I am the son of Mr. So.& So.” or “I am the manger of this or that firm.” etc. These answers don’t adequately express what we are. Rather they are mere designations or titles. The simple answer why we don’t give the right answer is because we don’t know or are not aware of what we truly are.
In psychology, self-knowledge is an important concept. For a matured, healthy life, self-knowledge is a must. A Spanish proverb says: “Self-knowledge is a necessary precondition for self-improvement.” Lao-tse says, “One who knows others is intelligent; but one who knows himself is wise.” The more we know ourselves, the more we become wise.
Today, with the advent of mass media, people have got a lot of knowledge about many things, but too little about themselves. We have got a lot of intellectuals (people who know things and events), a few intelligent people (people who know others), but a very few wise people (people who know themselves).
In such a situation of our lack of self-knowledge, Jesus tells us that He knows us. Psalm 139 starts with the words: “O Lord, you know me.”. It implies; ‘God knows what we truly and really are. God knows our strength which is dormant in us, our potentials that we don’t utilize, our uniqueness which we are not aware of’.
Since he knows what our real self is and what our capabilities are, he sends suffering in order to awaken that real self, and enliven the dormant capabilities. People are a lot like teabags. They don’t know what they truly are until they are in hot water. Sufferings are sent not to destroy us, but to design into His image; not to pulverize us but to build us up: not to make us awkward but to awaken us.
(2). To know is to understand and accept: When Jesus says, “I know my sheep”, it also means that is aware of our imperfections and weaknesses too. His awareness of our fallible nature certainly leads him to be compassionate and loving, and not judgmental and condemning, towards us.
Most often, we easily judge, criticize and find fault with others. It is just because we don’t know or we are not aware of their personal struggles, their family background and their upbringing. The antidote is nothing but trying to know the person. Knowledge of other person’s personal life leads us to be more compassionate than condemning, to be more loving than judgmental.
Rabindranath Tagore had a servant. One day evening Tagore was telling him of a few urgent works he was supposed to do next day. But unfortunately the servant didn’t turn up next day morning. Tagore got infuriated. Now he had to bend on himself for all the works. Grudgingly and with murmuring, he did all the works. In the evening the servant came to him and Tagore who was already fuming with anger, vented our his anger. The servant was standing in silence, looking at the floor. After Tagore had heavily scolded him, the servant, who was standing with a hollow cheek and sunken eyes, said with tears in his eyes, “I am sorry master. My son died suddenly yesterday night. Today I was running here and there arranging his funeral. That is the reason why I couldn’t come in the morning.” Needless to say that Tagore was embarrassed and shocked.
Real friends get along with each other and are happy, not because they don’t have any imperfections and negativities, but because they ‘know’ each other and have grown to accept mutually.
Neuro-Linguistic Programme, a branch of psychology, speaks of ‘Positive Intention’. It means ‘whatever a person does or says always has a positive intention behind it.’ In order to understand this positive intention of a particular act, we need to try to know the ‘inside’ of that person.
(3). To know is to love: Biblically, ‘to know others’ means ‘to love others’ (Hos.2: 20). When God says, “I know Ephraim (Hos. 5: 3), it simply means that God loves Ephraim. So Jesus’ words “I know my sheep’ denote “I love my sheep”. This is the message, St. John tries to communicate in the second reading. “See what singular love the Father has for us.” How much consoling it is for those who bemoan that they have nobody to love them and accept them.
We are living in a world that is ruled by hatred and ravaged by self-interest. Non-love seems to be the norm of the day. A man was kidnapped by a few extortionists, who phoned up to his wife and said with a stern voice, “Your husband is under our custody. If you don’t give us 10 lakhs of rupees, we won’t release him.” The wife thought for a moment and said with cool, “I am ready to give you even 20 lakhs, but don’t release him at all.”
In such a situation of hatred and non-understanding, we are invited to experience God’s love and be messengers of it. And that is the way to know (love) Him in return.
Loving Father, help us to understand that our lives become perfected by knowing you, and by knowing that you know us, Amen.