To read the texts click on the texts:Acts 13:14,43-52; Rev 7:9,14b-17; Jn 10:27-30
All three readings of today centre on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. If, in the first reading, Paul includes Gentiles as those who are also called to be disciples, in the Gospel text, Jesus speaks of disciples as those who listen to the voice of the shepherd. The second reading speaks of showing in action rather than in words that one is a disciple.
The final verse of the Gospel text of today, “The Father and I are one,” summarizes beautifully what discipleship means. It explicates and explains the relationship of Jesus and God as well as the relationship of disciples with Jesus. The oneness, which Jesus shares with God, is acted out in the whole Gospel. He speaks God’s words, he does God’s deeds and he makes God known, as no other has ever done before. Jesus is thus the manifestation of God’s unconditional love for the world. God sent Jesus and gave him to the world to show, on the one hand, that God would hold nothing back from the world and to show on the other that it was possible for every human being who encountered Jesus in any way to share in such a relationship with God because of Jesus. In Jesus, the world was able to witness who God is and what God is like. Disciples of Jesus who walk the same path can also reveal Jesus and so God.
This revelation of Jesus is what Paul invites the people in the Synagogue to. However, here, like in the case of Jesus’ voice, there is no coercion, pressure or force from without. The response has to be free. Like the sheep of Jesus hear his voice and follow him the people in the synagogue must decide if they are willing to follow. Since those to whom the voice was first addressed reject the Shepherd, others are invited to follow. Thus it is not primarily external identification marks that will determine a disciple of Jesus, rather one who shows in action that he/she wants to follow.
This action is narrated in the second reading of today, which speaks of those who dared to follow unconditionally and had to pay the price of such following. These are people from every nation, tribe and language, which is a clear indication that discipleship is not exclusive nor determined by one’s background, but by having the courage to follow even in the midst of all odds. These are the ones who have undergone all kinds of persecution and maltreatment and have persevered. They have shown not in words, but in action, what it means to follow and be a disciple of Jesus. They have behaved as obedient sheep of the Good shepherd.
Thus, discipleship as brought out in the readings of today is not merely a matter of saying, “Lord, Lord.” It concerns living out such a confession. To live out such a confession means to live as Jesus did and to manifest God as he did. The unique way in which Jesus revealed God is as unconditional forgiveness and love. This is why God is not a God who needs merely external worship and praise but a God who looks at the internal at the heart. This is because it is God who loves first. God does not need one to do anything to gain the love, because it is a love that is given gratis. One cannot acquire such a love or ever be worthy of it. One cannot earn such a love or merit it. However, one can show that this love given freely has been received and accepted only if one shares that love with everyone.
The sharing of such love was what the incarnation, mission, life, death and resurrection of Jesus was all about. God realised that the best way to show this love was through becoming an integral part of creation. In Jesus, this love reached the highest point and was manifested as pure, unadulterated love. It was a love that was shown when things were going well, but it was also a love that was revealed on and from the Cross. The multitude from every nation, tribe and language that followed the lamb realised this and that is why they, too, were able to go through the great ordeal and withstand all kinds of persecution. Thus, like Jesus, they too revealed God and thus, like Jesus, they too were able to see the face of God and stand before God.
The world today is hungering for such a love. There is too much hate, indifference, apathy and coldness. There is too much selfishness and self-centredness. Those of us who profess to be disciples of Jesus are challenged through the readings of today to bring about the change that is needed. We have to dare like Jesus and the first Christian community to first open our hearts to receive the unconditional forgiveness and love that God keeps pouring and to share that love with all. In this we, too, make no distinction between nation, race, tribe and language. In this we do not discriminate between them and us, for all are invited to partake of this gracious love of God made manifest and revealed in Jesus.