Fourth Sunday of Easter • Year C

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Mark A. Garrett, O.S.A.
1945 – 2009

Acts 13:14, 43-52
Ps 100:1-2, 3, 5
Rev 7:9, 14b-17
Jn 10:27-30

Frank – the little story goes – was worried that the lady he married forty years ago was growing deaf. So one day when she was working in the garden, he went out, stood on the other side of the yard, about thirty feet behind her, and called out, “Mary!”

No answer.

Frank came fifteen feet closer. “Mary!”

Still no answer. Frank was getting worried. Worse than I expected, he thought. He went up right behind her, almost touching, as she knelt over her planting. “Mary!” This time a response:

“For the third time, Frank, what is it?”

We can hardly blame Frank for having trouble hearing – could hardly blame Mary, if it were her problem. Their world – our world – has gotten louder. We hear thousand of voices – all the time. Our ears get assaulted so much, that it’s a wonder we can hear the quiet, intimate, gentle voices at all. We hear so much that’s just noise.

We hear lots of talk, lots of yelling, lots of loud, loud music. Ads play on TV several decibels louder than the programs they interrupt. People who can’t really sing shout their way into short-lived fame – “idols,” rap stars, even quasi-famous people tossing in-your-face provocations and insults in the name of art or “free-speech.”

We hear plenty of voices. Are they the ones we most want to hear? – most need to hear? How often do the voices coming out of the television and YouTube and Facebook make us feel as if we are overhearing horrible family quarrels, listening to desperate cries for help, being exposed to embarrassing attempts at self-promotion? We hear the voices of parents berating their children on voicemail, the voices of school shooters outlining their demented philosophies, the voices of politicians we know are lying to us.

But you and I, we’ve heard some other voices, too. We’ve heard Him say we should not return insult, even for insults hurled at us. We’ve heard Him say some challenging things about “turning the other cheek.” Not only that – we’ve seen Him do what he talked about. A month ago we all gathered here in church and we heard and read about how crowds went so quickly from “Hosanna” to “Crucify Him!” Likely, we heard our own voices – our own voices! – say, “Crucify Him,” for that’s how we almost always proclaim the Passion of Jesus to one another on Palm Sunday and Good Friday.

On those days, too, we experienced Saint Peter’s denial: “I do not know the man!” Maybe we were among those who said it – maybe not in the reading of the Passion – maybe sometimes we’ve said it with our daily lives “outside church.”

What was Jesus’ response to all that? We heard that just last Sunday: “Simon Peter, do you love me?” Again the words of Jesus – this time reaching out with healing for a man who was afraid and said things he regretted.

What about us? Did we hear Jesus’ words – I mean, really hear them? Can we answer the way Peter did? Of course, we can’t do that unless we really do hear Jesus’ voice. Unless we’re open to hearing Him still – coming along with us in our lives, and, as Paul and Barnabas did in Antioch, giving us encouragement and challenging us with His word – indeed, challenging us with the Word that he is!

Jesus has indeed spoken to our hearts and has given us his word. As he did to Simon Peter, he asks for our love. Can we hear him? We’re not deaf, are we? Deaf like Frank in my little story back there – not knowing we’re deaf – thinking it’s all someone else’s problem.

“Do you love me?” he said.

Do we? Can we love others in his name – “people of every tribe and nation and tongue?” Against all the background of so much noise and so many values far, far from what we know to be Jesus’ message – in the midst of all that, do we really hear the voice of Jesus, and is he the one we follow?