Fourth Sunday in Easter - St. Boniface Catholic Church - Evansville, IL
Fourth Sunday in Easter A 2011

“Save yourself from this corrupt generation” says today’s first reading from the Book of Acts.  This is good advice, but can we focus on saving ourselves if we see our brothers and sisters or our children going astray?  Doesn’t love entail that we cannot only seek our own salvation?  We cannot merely say that the world can collapse and go with the devil as long as I am saved. 

One of the problems in the Christian tradition is balancing salvation.  Is salvation something that we receive as individuals or as members of communities of faith?  At different times we focus on one often to the exclusion of the other.  Simply, we need both but the balancing act is difficult.

Prior to Vatican II, salvation was something experienced as individuals.  Even when we came to mass, we read privately from our missals or individually prayed our rosaries.  At Vatican II, something happened; many of the bishops had been in concentration camps or prisoner of war camps.  In these troubled places, they began to minister to all people regardless of their religious beliefs.  This experience taught them that the church has a social mission and they began emphasizing the communal aspect of salvation.

As a result, when we pray the mass, we do so as a community.  The mass is no longer the prayer of the priest or a select few individuals.  In the years following Vatican II, we saw many neglecting the private devotions which sustained the faith of ordinary Catholics prior to the council.  Even theologians who were considered more liberal began questioning the optimism of the council as well as the confusion it created because the world and the church were no longer distinct entities.

So what does this all mean?  We as church must worry about our own salvation.  We should pray to be saved and attempt to live in accordance with God’s plan.  At the same time, we cannot neglect the larger community.  We cannot say that as long as I am saved, it does not matter what happens to you.

Jesus cares about his sheep and that is why he is the Good Shepherd.  Shepherds in the time of Jesus, would bring their sheep into an area with a rocky fence at night to protect them.  As the sheep slept, the shepherd would lay across the entrance; the shepherd is literally the gate keeping out the wild animals and protecting the sheep.  The shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.

If Jesus watches over the flock, including sheep that do not belong to him, then we too must be concerned with those who are not members of the church.  Even if we cannot agree with them, we must pray for them, provide for them, and show them God’s love. May this Eucharistic celebration help us to urgently work towards our own salvation and the salvation of others.

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