Fourth Sunday of Easter

Bulletin Date: 
Sunday, May 7, 2017

Faith: A Loving Relationship with the Shepherd 

Each of this week's Sunday Readings involves some aspect of personal faith. Because as Catholics we are often baptized as infants and raised in the Church, we often overlook the need to make our own reasoned faith decision about Jesus and the salvation he offers. Often we are Christian and Catholic because we were raised that way, not because we exercised our free choice. The Catechism says, "To be human, 'man's response to God by faith must be free, and . . . therefore nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will. The act of faith is of its very nature a free act.'" It further points out, "Faith is a personal act – the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself." (160, 166) So the Church teaches that it is important to make this decision to respond to God by faith in Christ. The book: Go and Make Disciples points out that "people experience conversion in many ways. Some experience a sudden, shattering insight that brings rapid transformation. Some experience a gradual growth over many years. Others undergo conversion as they take part in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults …" Though the processes may vary the step of personal faith is crucial.

The Catechism has a great definition of the concept about which we are speaking; "Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by grace." (155) A personal faith decision not only understands the truth about Jesus' death and resurrection but agrees with and responds to grace with an act of the will to consent to believe and follow Jesus. You will discover that this is the choice the people had in today's first reading. The people, confronted with these truths by Peter, asked one another "what shall we do." St. John Paul II provides a wonderful suggestion in the following quote.

" . . . Please allow me to shout it aloud: 'It is time to return to God!' The person who does not yet have the joy of the faith is asked for the courage to seek it with confidence, perseverance and openness. Whoever has the grace of possessing it is asked to value it as the most treasured possession of his life, living it thoroughly and witnessing to it with passion. Our world hungers for faith, for an authentic and deep faith, because God alone can fully satisfy the desires of the human heart."

The Gospel reading clearly indicates that personal faith is not the mere assent to doctrinal truths but is a relationship with a loving Shepherd. Consequently, Jesus speaks of the gate of salvation as coming through a person, him; "I am the gate" and "whoever enters through me." Because the Father is gracious he gives us the opportunity to choose to enter into this relationship with Jesus, or not to. May we find our heart fully satisfied by choosing him.

God Bless!! Fr Elmer