Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday in the 4th Week of Easter
The yeses in the YES

Readings: Acts 11:1-18; Psalm 42:2-3; 43:3, 4; John 10:1-10

What might it mean for us today when Jesus says he is the gate of the sheepfold, and that anyone who does not enter… through the gate… is a thief and a brigand? Quite obviously, we are being asked to say YES to following Jesus, to becoming his disciple. We may be reminded, for example, of that moving moment at the Easter Vigil, when the candidates for baptism renounced sin and professed their faith. This year, their numbers allowed them to do it one at a time. Do you reject Satan… Do you believe in God the Father almighty…? I do, I do, I do… They were each saying a big YES to entering the sheepfold of life in all its fullness through the gate who is Christ. But, admirable and inspiring as that moment was, isn’t it true that their big YESes imply a commitment to making many more little yeses in the days that follow? And isn’t it also true that those little yeses are not always easy to make?

This past weekend, I was at a retreat organized by a group which included some married couples and their children. We were in a large hall and I was happily watching several of the children amusing themselves, running around and playing in that big space. One of the parents came up to me and asked: They look very cute don’t they? I agreed enthusiastically. At which she went on to say: Yes, but don’t be fooled! I guess what she was telling me was that, cute as the kids might seem to an innocent bystander, they were actually quite a handful to care for. I’m reminded of a former classmate of mine who, I’m told, has a pet name for her son. She calls him monster. Isn’t it true that saying a big YES to having cute children also implies many little yeses to the monster as well? Just like saying a big YES to the spouse who may look so dashing or beautiful or who may make us laugh, might also mean having to say yes to the same one who snores or who has bad breath? Or like saying a big YES to religious life may also imply many little yeses to living and working with fellow religious who might have views and temperaments different from our own?

And isn’t it precisely at times when we are faced with the challenge of living out these little yeses, that we are likely to feel tempted to enter the sheepfold by some other way? What to do? The experience of the early church in the first reading is instructive. We notice how everyone in the reading has already accepted Christ. But today they are beginning to see that their big YES to Christ implies a smaller, but no less important, yes to the uncircumcised as well. This is a daunting challenge for them, who have been raised to believe that the Jews are the chosen people of God. What helps them to meet this challenge, to say this yes? They are helped by Peter’s experience. Led by the Spirit, Peter actually visits and gets to know some of the very people whom the Jews might have at first considered unclean. And in the experience, Peter sees with his own eyes the Spirit moving powerfully among them. In his experience, he sees the connection between saying YES to Christ and yes to the uncircumcised. And he is able to convince the others to do the unthinkable, to continue entering into the sheepfold of life in its fullness through Christ the only true gate, by accepting pagan believers into their midst. Isn’t this what we are called to do as well? When the yes seems especially difficult to force out through our lips, aren’t we also being invited to pray for the grace to see Christ in the uncircumcised -- to see the connection between our earlier YES to Christ and the particular yes to the people or the situation at hand?

How are we being invited to do this today?

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