Help me find...
By Bishop Larry Silva
May 07, 2017
Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A
[Confirmation: Sacred Heart Church, Honolulu; Vietnamese Holy Martyrs Community, Honolulu; Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa, Honolulu]
I recall a TV game show in which the contestants had to choose which of three doors the grand prize would be behind. Behind the other two doors was either a lesser prize or a gag prize. In light of today’s gospel we might reflect upon the same concept; only this is no game, it is real life.
There is the door that is most attractive, the door of popularity, the door that you want to go through because “everybody is doing it.” If everybody is cheating, I will cheat, too, and try to be creative about not being caught. If everybody is engaging in sexual indulgence, then I will, too, making sure only that I have proper “protection.” If everybody thinks one thing, I will probably think the same thing, because I am someone who goes along with the crowd. It would bring ridicule and rejection if I went some other way, so this is the door I choose.
There is the door that is equally attractive, the door of “me first.” I don’t really care what everyone else is doing, but I open up life as if I am the final arbiter of all things. I decide when life begins and when it should end. I decide what truth is for me, without reference to anything else. I decide what the ultimately important things in life are. This is the door that is most attractive to many.
Then there is the door that is quite narrow and that few may choose in the end. It is the door of Jesus, the gate through whom his own beloved flock comes in and out, so that it can follow him. This door may be one of the most unattractive doors, because following Jesus does not always bring popularity and it certainly means that “He>I”. It means doing the right thing, even when “everybody else” is doing the wrong thing. It means listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd who is the Truth and reveals all truth to us, even when the truth is not popular. It means learning to forgive those who hurt us, just like Jesus, who “when he was insulted, … returned no insult,” not because he was weak, but because he was strong. It means taking the time and effort to turn away from what pleases and attracts us to see the poor, the oppressed, the ridiculed, and the rejected and to find ways to reach out to them in love. It means being as bold as Peter, who, though his Master had been hunted down and crucified, had the courage to tell the crowd that they had crucified Jesus, while at the very same time offering them the opportunity to repent and be immersed in his merciful love, opening for them the door of the prize of eternal life.
How did Peter – or others like him – have the courage to be so bold, to go through the door that seemed to everyone else the wrong door to choose? It was because he had experienced the risen Christ, the Good Shepherd personally and because Jesus had marked him as his own by anointing him with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is the door through which he invites all of us to enter into life, as unattractive as it may seem sometimes. He attunes our ears and our hearts to him as our Good Shepherd so that we will readily recognize him and follow him. And he does this by also anointing us, marking us, branding us, sealing us with the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that we can bear the sweet scent of his love and find our greatest joy in entering life through him. You women and men who are to be confirmed today are people that Jesus has loved always, and today the risen Jesus, who is truly present with us in the Eucharist, anoints you with the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is not just an empty ceremony, but Jesus kissing you on the forehead with a kiss that will change your life forever, that will give you the wisdom, understanding, and fortitude to choose the door that leads to eternal life, no matter how unattractive it may appear to others. And he seals you as his very own so that you, in his name, can go out like Peter, and call others to come in to the fullness of life that can only be found when we enter through the door that Jesus is.
Of course, the choice is ours from now until the end of our lives, but he gives us all the means necessary so that we can smell this Gate to the sheepfold through this perfumed oil of Chrism, from which the name of Christ, the anointed one himself, is derived. He lets us hear his voice when we listen to the Scriptures. He even lets us taste and see how good he is when he offers us his Body and Blood in communion. And he teaches us that, just as he has gone through the narrow door of self-emptying love, we will gain everything if we give ourselves in the same way and invite others to choose this same door to eternal life.