This past week, I needed to drive a friar to Logan because he was going out of town for a business meeting at four in the morning. I’ve made this trip many times and I am finally able to navigate it without a problem. That was until this week: the ramp that leads to 93 south was closed and so I needed to get off in Southie. Even though I serve here on the weekends, I live in Jamaica Plain. But I didn’t think that this presented a problem: I’ve driven through Southie enough (even though never this early in the morning). Well, I got off 93 and figured that I could take a short cut: even though I knew the right way to go, it would have taken longer. I made a right turn sooner that I should have because I figured that I would just make things up as I went along. It didn’t work. I got lost. Horribly lost.
A shortcut turned into a long ordeal – at 4:45 in the morning.
The point of this story isn’t to prove to you when my family has known about me for a long time: I have a poor sense of direction. Rather, I think it gives us a way to go about understanding the importance of this morning’s (evening’s) Gospel.
When it comes to our relationship with God, there are no shortcuts – and whenever we try to take shortcuts, we will find ourselves lost, confused, and in need of assistance to get back on our path.
Just as our relationships with families and friends suffer when we try to cut corners, so too it is when we do so in our relationship with God.
Yet, there is a major – and we should be thankful for this – difference between the shortcuts we take on the road (or in our lives) and the shortcuts we take with God. Whenever we find ourselves lost in our lives of faith – beaten down and confused, tangled in the knots of our own weaknesses or the weaknesses of others – we can return to this Gospel and regain perspective.
While there are no shortcuts in our relationship with God – we do know the way to grow our relationship and that is through personal contact with God himself in the person of Jesus the Christ.
We hear in today’s Gospel that Jesus is both the shepherd and the gate: he is both the God toward which we are traveling, as well as the passageway through which we all must travel to reach God.
Think about it – Jesus is both the pathway to God as well as the destination. In the midst of his conversion, it was Saint Augustine who wrote “his heart was restless until it rested in God.” This was true many years ago and it is true for us too: as human beings, we are created for God – we are created to search for God and to find God, both in this world and in the next.
This Easter season, we celebrate this every Sunday in a specific way: that God came into the world, became a human being, suffered, died, was buried, and then rose again. The reason why Jesus is both gate and shepherd is exactly this: he both came into the world, true God and true man to show us not only how to find God, but to actually be found as God.
But this isn’t all: realizing that Jesus is both our gate and shepherd isn’t the final step. The recognition of the way in which God has called us into a relationship with him cannot only remain something in our heads. Or, to put it in another way, as a boss of mine used to say, “Knowing the right thing to do and doing it are two different things.”
To know that Jesus is the way, the truth and the light – to know that he is our shepherd – our guide, our protector – to know that Jesus is the gate through which we all enter into friendship with God – is not enough. We are called to respond to this call – to not only offer praise and thanks to God (as we do here in this church today) but also to call others to do the same.
To listen to the voice of Jesus calling us to follow means that we all be “gates” for others: not closed or narrow gates, but gates that invite others to follow the same shepherd. At the same time, to serve as gates means to imitate the love of Christ: this is a love that calls others to be the best Christian versions of themselves, not whatever makes them feel good for the next minute or two. There is no shortcut in finding Christ, but only through walking alongside the Lord.
This weekend, around the country, parishes spend this Sunday reflecting on the meaning of vocation: specifically to priesthood and religious life. I find this particularly meaningful given my own place in life: just a few weeks away from being ordained. But, the fact is that all of us – every single one of us, you and me – have a basic vocation that we received at our baptisms: to follow the shepherd, Jesus the Christ; to pass through the gate that is Jesus Christ. And then, having seen the beauty to which God has called us, to do as Christ did, and show others – everyone that we meet, in fact – the way to God that is God: Jesus the Christ.