Old is a bad word.

April 22nd Sunday Readings.

A week after Christmas (and 4 or so days after the birth of my son), I dropped my smart john-paul-joseph-henry-245902-unsplashphone into the toilet. To save you from unpleasant and unnecessary detail, I’ll just say this – it didn’t make it. We had an old flip phone in the junk draw and so I transferred my number to ol’ reliable and fired it up. The battery lasted for days. It was so small and fit so well in my pocket. I wasn’t chained to it’s screen expecting a constant drip of dopamine from likes, retweets, or texts. Of course it wasn’t all good, and when I finally broke down and got a new smart phone, I was relieved. 

There is nothing wrong with the latest and greatest. Often the reason the new replaces the old is because it’s better in some manner or degree. Innovation and improvement are good in so many ways. However, far too often, I think our predilection for “the new” is absolute. We are quick to flush the old anything in favor of the new for no other reason than it is new. Honestly, it feels like “old” is a bad word in our culture. 

Sometimes we desire new because of the shortcomings of the old, which is good. However, by the time we recognize the shortcomings of the new, the old is long gone. 

Is it possible to hold onto the old and embrace the new? I’m not sure yet, to be honest.

What I do know is that in the gospel this Sunday, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” This way of thinking about Jesus, as good shepherd, feels old. My grandparents had a painting of Jesus carrying a lamb on his shoulders, in their home. Now, we hear about Jesus as bridegroom or Lord or Hurricane or Good Father, but rarely, shepherd. There is some simple beauty in this scripture even as it isn’t stylish or current to think about Jesus as shepherd.

zoltan-tasi-308658-unsplashJesus the shepherd cares for us. Jesus directs us. Jesus chases us down when we are lost. Jesus sometimes uses a stick to get us back on track. Jesus works out fights when we run into other sheep. Jesus picks us up when we are too small to walk. Jesus leads us to clean water and lush, verdant pastures. Jesus provides exactly what we need. 

Jesus is my shepherd. 

Live It:
Take some time with this piece of scripture. Pray through it. What would it look like if Jesus was shepherding you?

What’s new?

The Good Word for Sunday January 31st ~ for the complete readings click here.

When was the last time you learned something new about your best friend? If you are married, what was the last thing you discovered about your spouse? How would you react if someone you knew well, revealed something new about themselves to you?

What if we never learned anything new about our closest friends? Imagine if we treated our best friend like they were the exact person they were when we first met them. Granted people’s personality and general dispositions maybe don’t change all that much over time. But I am willing to bet that the life situation and worldview of your longtime best friend is different now then when you first met them.

Let me give you an example of what I am trying to explain. We had some college friends over the other day and in the middle of general catching up, one of our friends revealed a small thing about them that no one in the room knew about. One of my friends then remarked, “Wow. We’ve known each other 25 years and we are still finding out new things about each other!”

The crowds in the gospel weren’t willing to find out anything new about Jesus. Jesus was Joseph’s son. Jesus was a local boy grown up, and not much more. So when Jesus stood, read the Messianic prophesy from Isaiah, and told them that he had come to fulfill the words of the prophet, well, Jesus’ hometown wasn’t ready to hear it.

Not only was Jesus’ hometown not ready to see and understand Jesus in a new way, they weren’t ready to understand what Jesus was saying about God’s mercy and love. Jesus was explaining that God would reveal himself, not just to the chosen ones of Israel, but to the gentiles as well. The crowds became livid because their understanding of God was rigid. They couldn’t think of Jesus as anything more than Joseph’s son and couldn’t imagine God loving anyone other than the chosen people.

Sometimes we get this way about Jesus and God too. People of faith have an experience of God and then that is the only way we think we can know or experience God. We meet Jesus Christ face to face, but then we think we are done searching.

The reality is that if our Catholic faith is a relationship with Jesus (and it is), then we must continue to grow in knowing Jesus. We can never settle.

When was the last time you discovered something new about Jesus? When was the last time you let God pour his mercy and love into a new part of your life?

Live It:
Read one chapter from a gospel. Doesn’t matter which one. Matthew 11, Luke 9, John 20, Mark 6 – Whatever. It should take less than 10 minutes. Then sit in silence for 2 minutes and let Jesus be with you.