Reflection for Sunday, April 21, 2002: 4th week in Easter.
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Gillick, Larry, S.J.
My dear Grandma O'Connor had in her living room a huge radio set, in front of which I would sit and listen. Equally fascinating to me, besides the sounds, was the figure on this very old and substantial piece of furniture. There was a large white dog intently listening to something emanating from a larger horn-shaped speaker and below it were the letters, RCA VICTOR.||When I visited her house, there was that dog listening to something I could not hear myself. Perhaps the dog was waiting for me to turn on the set and we would both listen. My Grandpa told me the dog was listening to the "Voice of his master." When I asked him if I could listen to the "voice of the master," he only smiled and said that I would have my chance. I always wanted to listen to the radio, but I knew for sure I lacked the intensity of that devoted white dog.|In today's First Reading there is some intense speaking and listening going on. Peter, speaking the words of the Master, announces that Jesus is the Lord, and Christ, the Messiah. Peter is speaking to the people of Israel and the One they crucified was the One for whom they had longed and sought. Their response is a very good one, "What are we to do, my brothers?" Peter tells them what to do and they both listen and act upon their reception. Thousands were added by their hearts being moved to what they had heard.|The Gospel does not sound very much in keeping with Easter. It does have to do with listening and not listening. This particular section comprises verses which follow immediately the verses at the end of the chapter about the curing of the man born blind. As you may recall, the Pharisees were threatened by this curing and Jesus confronted them with the challenge that they were once able to see, but they have become blind themselves. So these verses to which we listen today continue His challenge and intensifies it even more. This is more about their not listening than that Jesus is a shepherd. This is a comfortable and convenient image, of course, but the more clear image is that of Jesus being the "Voice of the Master."|In the twenty-third chapter of the Prophet Jeremiah and in the thirty-fourth chapter of the Prophet Ezekiel, these Pharisees had read often of how the Lord chastised the religious leaders of Israel and was going to send a "Shepherd" to replace them all. When Jesus begins speaking to them, not only of their being blind, but like the leaders of old, their being robbers and thieves, they begin to listen more intensely than that little white dog and the lad in front of the radio.|This reading does not sound like Easter, but it really is. As we have seen these past weeks, Jesus was not easily recognized, but He was speaking and there was listening. Mary Magdala listened to Jesus pronounce her name while she supposed He was the gardener. The men on their way to Emmaus certainly listened, as did the men out fishing who had caught nothing all night. The life that Jesus has come to give us and to the full begins with His speaking and our listening. He is stating clearly that He is the Shepherd, the One Who calls with true words. The Pharisees had robbed and pilfered their followers. Jesus has come to nourish, through His words and gestures of feeding, guiding, and comforting. The man born blind is reborn in the Light to see and believe that Jesus was sent to him. The Pharisees see and hear the same words and gestures of Jesus and choose blindness.|At the Easter Vigil, three weeks ago, our churches were darkened and one small flame was lighted and then that light spread throughout the whole assembly. It was silent, and then one voice began the proclamation and we began listening to The Word. Jesus came as Light by which to see and Word by which to hear who we are and to Whom we belong. Easter is our listening time. He is the Master to Whose voice we are to listen intently and follow. I personally wish I would be able to return to the intensity of my younger-self's listening to the Voice of The Master and be so eager to hear and be moved by the Words. Ah, but it is still Easter and the Master will be as faithful in speaking as the old white dog was faithful in waiting to hear.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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