Sunday Sermon for April 30, 2023, the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; 1 Pet 2:20b-25; Jn 10:1-10
In the first reading today, we hear St. Peter exhorting the people of Jerusalem, telling them that God has made both Lord and Messiah Jesus Whom they had crucified. The thought that they had cooperated in putting to death the Person God had sent to save them stung the people to the heart. What is critical to recognize is that St. Peter did not say the people would be condemned for doing this or that there was no hope for them. Rather, if they would turn to Jesus with repentance, they could be baptized into Him and receive the forgiveness of their sins. Even more, they could receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
This is astounding! God comes to us in love, we reject Him and crucify Him, and still He comes back to us offering us forgiveness and giving us the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Humanity deserved to be wiped off the face of the earth for what we did to our Lord. Instead, He shows us what true charity looks like and extends to us the opportunity and the means for salvation and eternal life.
We see from the Passion of our Lord, and especially from His crucifixion, that salvation is not cheap. Therefore, we cannot treat such a gift as something small, frivolous, or meaningless. The people of Jerusalem were cut to the heart when they heard the words of St. Peter. How about us? When we think that our sins have crucified the Son of God, does that do anything to us? When we see the love and mercy of God extended to us, knowing what we have done to Him, does that do anything to us?
Too many people have removed themselves spiritually from our Lord. We will admit that we have sinned, and we will admit that we cannot save ourselves, but we still want to go on living like the death and resurrection of our Lord means little or nothing to us. Our hearts are not affected because we have distanced ourselves from what happened to Jesus.
St. Peter encouraged the people in Jerusalem to save themselves from that corrupt generation. The people could only hear this because their hearts had been stung. Compared to the world in which we live today, the generation Peter was addressing seems pretty tame. Yet he called it a corrupt generation and called the people to save themselves from it. How? Repent and be baptized was the answer St. Peter gave then. He would still say the same to us, but most of us have been baptized, so is there something more we can do?
This is addressed in the second reading where St. Peter tells us that we had gone astray like sheep, but our healing will take place only when we return to the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls. As our Shepherd and Guardian, our Lord and Messiah, Jesus tells us in the Gospel that He is the gate. If we enter through Him, we will be saved and find pasture. In other words, if we enter through this Gate, we will find peace and fulfillment.
Jesus said the others, whose voices we have too often followed, are all thieves and robbers. The world is full of these thieves and they have convinced us that if we listen to them we will find what we are looking for. Instead, they have taken away our peace, they have led us into the desert, and they have left us with a pile of material possessions that have brought us a life of emptiness. Their constant message to focus on ourselves, look out for number one, treat others as objects, do whatever feels good, etc., has left us devoid of peace, confused, and often despairing.
Until we reject these lies, our focus will still be on our own self and the message of salvation St. Peter preached will go in one ear and out the other without ever piercing our heart. If we see what the corruption of the world has brought us, then we can turn to Jesus, the Salvation Peter preached. Our selfishness in the face of His love will cut into our hearts. Only when this happens will we be willing to leave our selfishness and materialistic ways, and enter through the Gate, Who is Jesus.
Entrance through this Gate will bring us into His Sacred Heart. Leaving our selfishness behind, we will finally find what we have always been seeking. We will find peace, we will find fulfillment, we will find love. The world had depleted us of life; Jesus said He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. This is His life, the abundant life gained for us on the Cross and given through the Holy Spirit!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.