A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
As the fulfillment of His earthly life and ministry, the forty days of our Lord’s Resurrected presence provide us with a series of cameos or episodes, in which we find His mandate for us as His disciples and followers become more clearly and sharply focussed. In the upper room, breathing on them, He gave the Apostles authority to pronounce forgiveness of sins in His name. On the Road to Emmaus, and in the Upper Room, He makes plain how the Scriptures all find their ultimate reason and meaning in Him, so that we begin to discover how we may carry on the work of preaching. To Peter on the sea side He reveals the course of his vocation, to care for the church and its ministers, that it is a ministry that will finally end in martyrdom, and how Peter must persevere without resentment in that calling. In the miraculous catch of fishes, He shows how God’s call to labour for His kingdom is a matter of faithful obedience, and neither known nor accomplished according to any earthly power or measure. He shows the absolute importance of that faith as He allows Thomas even to put his fingers into the sacred wounds, in order that Thomas may believe. John reiterates the point at the end of the Gospel, that all is written ‘so that [we] might believe’. Everywhere He proclaimed His Peace. And in the final moments of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus makes their new purpose absolutely simple and clear: go, preach all this that I have shown you, and everywhere bring those who would listen into the kingdom by faith and baptism.
Little by little He is transforming them for the labour of Christian ministry, which is to say, He is bringing them into the work of His love for us, the work of turning the lost and the lonely into the single body of His people, the citizens of His kingdom. That labour is already accounted for, already accomplished and fulfilled, in His work as our Good Shepherd: the king who lays down his life for the people. And now, He told them, His work must become our work: ‘do this, in remembrance of me’, He commanded at the last supper, ‘for this is my blood, shed for you’; love one and other with nothing but this same love, by which I have loved you. There must be one flock and one shepherd, just as there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism.
Above all else, this is the vision that would move the early church’s life and teaching; they would come to abandon wealth and earthly status, in order for nothing but the ministry to prevail. Saul the elitist Pharisee would come to be Paul the champion of the church’s common life, everywhere exhorting a ‘more excellent way’, the ministry uniting in one body the many and various members from among all kindreds and nations. All are to be moved by the one event of Christ’s love-in-sacrifice, which, Paul taught, ‘if I lack, then I am nothing’.
And this, Peter tells us in today’s epistle, is the shape of our calling. We who carry the name of our Saviour in our profession, ‘Christian’, must bear out the same gracious life by which we are saved: we must not allow love to be overwhelmed by any earthly anguish or trial, but rather in everything, to allow the Love of God to accomplish its good purpose, in us, and through us. “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”