26 Apr 2015
“‘I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me.’” (John 10:14) (+)
This past week I saw on the news and maybe you did too the video of the Mexican police dragging a screaming and kicking 14 year old girl by the name of Alondra Luna Nunez out of a courtroom so that they could force her onto a plane and take her to Houston. There a woman was waiting whose own daughter was kidnapped by her ex-husband and taken to Mexico. The woman in Houston believed Alondra was that daughter. The parents in Mexico were pleading with the judge to have a DNA test performed, but it wasn’t done until the 14 year old arrived in the United States. That’s when it was discovered that Alondra was not the Houston mom’s kidnapped daughter.
It’s hard to imagine the psychological trauma that all of this must have forced on these two families. Alondra was terrified to be taken away from the only family she has ever known and had to face the possibility that she was someone else’s little girl. Her mother and father were in shock that their child could be taken away from them and brought to a foreign country. The woman in Houston went from elation at thinking her daughter had been found back to the emptiness of her continuing fear and separation. Not knowing who you are or where you belong is terrifying. It steals away a basic part of a person’s identity and self-awareness. It makes everything else confused and unbalanced.
I think we can all imagine the anguish if this personal story was played-out in our lives, but in a certain sense this personal disconnect may already be a part of who we are. For example, on a regular basis, Holy Name is contacted by people who are asking for information about forgotten relatives. When they learn that maybe their grandparent or great grandparent had a role in starting Holy Name, they themselves feel the connection. Someone just a couple of weeks ago stood out by our Memorial Wall and felt moved by seeing their relative’s name listed there. The life of a lost relative can help someone today define who they are. Or going even further back in time, the actor Ben Affleck made the news recently by asking a PBS program to not report that one of his ancestors was a slave owner. He said that he was embarrassed by that fact, and that’s after a century and a half. It still affected his self-identity 150 years later.
Ellen Skroski shared with me a link to the book A God that Could Be Real by Nancy Abrams. She is a philosopher who argues that we as individuals and as societies tend to think only in the short term because we ignore not only our ancestry that links us with great grandparents or even with Civil War era slave owners, but with all of creation. She teaches that when we forget the miracle of time and evolution on the scale of eons that we also forget to plan for our future generations centuries and even eons ahead of us. We engage in destructive behaviour now because of short term gains that put the future generations of our families in serious jeopardy. In so many ways like these, we have a bit of our identity stolen, forgotten or ignored, and this puts limits on how much we can know or expect of ourselves.
And now I want to reach even further back into our story, beyond great grandparents, Ben Affleck’s Civil War relatives, or even the beginning of creation as Nancy Abrams speaks about. I want to reach back to the Creator who stands even before creation. I spoke about this a little bit at Easter. Today the church directs us to read the passage from John Chapter Ten where Jesus speaks of Himself as the Good Shepherd, and in that context He says, “‘I know mine and mine know me.’” Church and faith are our chances to build a relationship with God, with Jesus. By practicing our faith, by giving some attention to the spiritual part of our nature, we get to know God, we get to know Jesus, ever better. That Jesus knows us is a given of faith; that we should know Jesus is the work of faith.
But Jesus as the Good Shepherd then goes on to say, “‘I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.’” (10:16) In other words, they don’t recognize their relationship with Him. Jesus still knows them, but they don’t know Jesus. Part of their identity is missing. And just as with the other gaps in a person’s life-story, this one can have its own consequences too. We often hear people today saying that something is missing in their lives, but they don’t know what it is or where to start looking. What’s missing may be the part of us that is made in the image and likeness of God, the part of us that we call our souls, the part of us that was created by God and is someday destined to return to God.
Last Sunday I made a mistake. I was talking about how special we are because everything we think of as creation, the galaxies, the stars, the planets, and us is something like 5% of the universe while everything else is some unknown Dark Energy and Dark Matter. The real figure, however, is .5%. All of those astounding images that NASA released this week on the 25th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope, as amazing as they are, is .5% of everything in creation. (http://hubble25th.org/images) For us to be here right now is truly a miracle when so much of creation is other. There is so much in creation that is unknown. For people to go about their daily lives as if all that is important is job and recreation, getting the kids to this practice or that one, or even thinking that today or even 10 or 20 years from now is all that matters, is to ignore a huge part of who we are and who we should be.
This is why we can’t forget about Mass on Sundays. We have to give ourselves the time and opportunity to touch the part of us that touches God. But church also needs to emphasize more practices that make us think like Bible study or another meeting of our book club to discuss A God that Could Be Real. (http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2015/04/23/401643807/a-god-that-could-be-real-in-the-scientific-universe?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20150423) There are too many people who don’t realize how special they are. They’re missing that special something in their lives. So let us pray that we as church can somehow help God’s people to know that they are God’s people. And for this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo