4 Easter, Year A: A Greening Eternity

SUNDAY’S READINGS | APRIL 30, 2023

Acts 2:42-47
1 Peter 2:19-25
John 10:1-10
Psalm 23

With all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, we turn our attention to “the shepherd and guardian of [our] souls” (1 Pet. 2:25). Turning to Jesus, we notice again all the good things done on our behalf. “He makes me lie down in green pastures” (Ps. 23:2). What are these pastures but the lush goodness of eternal and overflowing joy? “My cup overflows” (Ps. 23:5).

In the words of Gregory the Great, translated with exactness so we can hear what he says and sense how he thinks: “Therefore, the sheep will find pasture; because whoever follows [the Good Shepherd] in simplicity of heart is nourished with the food of a greening eternity. What are the pastures of these sheep but the interior joys — forever — of a greening paradise? For the pastures of the elect are the present face of God seen without defect, and in which the mind is satisfied with the food of life” (Hom. 14).

Gregory paints a picture of an eternal springtime, a greening paradise, joys beyond all knowing, the divine presence poured out as our endless nourishment. Do you see it?

Turning to the whole of Psalm 23, we hear familiar words: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Ps. 23, KJV; BCP, p. 476).

We hear and receive these great promises even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Indeed, Jesus warns his sheep of grave danger. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). Thus, we are to press on and endure to the end as we follow the Good Shepherd.

Listen to the encouraging words of Pope Gregory. “Let us seek, therefore, my dearest brothers,  these pastures in which we may rejoice with the solemnity of such citizens [in heaven]. Let the festival of the rejoicing ones invite/urge us. Let us, therefore, brothers, ignite the soul. Let faith rekindle that which it believes. Let our desires burn toward supernal things. So to love is already to go/begin the journey” (Hom. 14).

Gregory impresses upon us both the beauty and urgency of our journey toward Christ. He adds: “Let no adversity recall us from the joys of eternal solemnity/festival. Indeed, if someone decides to go to some proposed destination, whatever bitterness he encounters along the way does not change his desire. Let no charming prosperity seduce you, either; for he is a foolish traveler who, seeing pleasant meadows along the way, forgets where he intends to go.”

We are going to a beautiful city, to citizens who await our arrival, to joys beyond words, to the present face of God. Already, we have some measure of heaven as we break bread in our churches and in our homes and eat with glad and generous hearts. The Good Shepherd is leading us to our eternal home. When we arrive, to quote St. Augustine, “there we shall rest and see, see and love, love and praise. This is what shall be in the end without end” (The City of God, cap. XXX).

LOOK IT UP: John 10:10

THINK ABOUT IT: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

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