Sunday, May 8, 2011
The Shepherd Became a Lamb to Save the Flock
II Sunday after Easter - II Class
Good Shepherd Sunday
Epistle: I Pet. 2:21-25 [Christ brought back the lost sheep by being a silent lamb.]
Gospel: Jn. 10:11-16 [Christ the Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.]
Full Latin-English propers here.
Christ is the Nymphios (Bridegroom) of the Church. He loves Her as a man loves his wife. In fact, Christ's love is the original spousal love and a man only loves his wife insofar as his affection for her is a reflection of Christ's love for the Church. God offered His love to His Bride and wanted to be with her. When you fall in love, you want the person's companionship. You aren't after the person's body and you don't desire romance from them. Those things are seen as good, but aren't what's important. What's important is the person's companionship through life. Whatever they do, you want to do with them and whatever you do you want them to do with you. God offered this life in the perfect joy of the garden of Eden. His Bride threw His love back in His face by running off after sin. Like sheep She went astray, as we hear in the Epistle, where St. Paul alludes to the Canticle of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53.
Again, when you're in love, when you get separated from the one you love, you want to be together with them again. It is love's nature to unite. Love is a grace that unites man and wife using the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. In the Holy Marriage of Christ and the Church, love unites the two lovers using all the sacraments. As a grace then, love is the Holy Ghost, as grace is simply the presence of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost unites God the Father and God the Son. Unite is simply what the Holy Ghost does. Union is the natural end of love. Therefore Christ wanted His Bride back with a perfect longing, which could only be satisfied by union with His Bride. The longing was so strong that He took on flesh, becoming one of the sheep and He sacrificed Himself as the Lamb of God to purify His mystical Spouse and bring Her back from the death of sin. The Good Shepherd became one of the sheep so He could sacrifice His life to give life to his sheep. The Good Shepherd became the Lamb of God.
In His suffering, Christ was as a lamb, going silently to it's death. He suffered the worst pains and humiliations without complaining or opening His mouth. It is love that enabled Him to suffer the worst torments without complaint. When you are in love, you are willing to undergo any suffering or humiliation for the sake of the beloved. Love itself is so strong and your desire to not only be with the one you love, but also have her be pure and holy, is so strong that even the worst suffering is weak in comparison. Christ was able to undergo so much pain in His passion because His love for His Bride the Church is so strong. Without love, one is not willing to suffer. When the bond is infatuation, then it is weak, because it is not love. When suffering comes, infatuation breaks and one is no longer willing to suffer for the other. The deeper the infatuation, the more suffering one is willing to undergo for the other, but it will break because only love can withstand suffering. That is why the divorce rate is so high: a lack of love and abundance of infatuation. There is no willingness to suffer for the good of the other. Infatuation is like the hireling.
The Bride of Christ today devotes half the Gospel to condemning the hireling, who flees when life gets difficult. This is a condemnation of calling infatuation "love" (as many are wont to do these days) when it is only a mutual infatuation. Infatuaters and lusters look for good times. Lovers suffer for the good of one another. This is how Christ loves the Church, as His Bride. He suffers for Her good. We must reciprocate His love. We mustn't reject or ignore His love. We must reciprocate it. We must be willing to suffer for His greater glory and our love for Him will make that suffering easy to bear. That is the basis of the whole Catholic life. Husbands and wives must also love each other in this way, or else they have no right to get married. Marriage can only happen for self-less reasons, never for selfish reasons. If a couple is actually called to marriage then there is an immediate willingness to suffer without any hesitation, because love strengthens them to do so beyond their human weakness. The Nymphios told St. Faustina, "True love is measured by the thermometer of suffering." (Diary, 343). Indeed. That's true love.