You have the only approval you will ever need, the approval of God. Jesus made this possible by bearing our sins and becoming the guardian and shepherd of our souls. CNS photo

God's Word on Sunday: Be open to a change of mind and heart

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  • April 26, 2020

Fourth Sunday of Easter, May 3 (Year A) Acts 2:14a, 36b-41; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:20b-25; John 10:1-10

When we have done something terribly wrong, it is impossible to call it back. Words remain spoken, deeds remain done, hearts remain broken.

This alone should prompt us to be more reflective and discerning before we speak or act. But that is what would occur in a perfect world. Humans are very fallible and have an absolute genius for doing things that they come to regret.

We look back on our own histories, both collective and personal, with dismay and sometimes shame. What were they — or we — thinking?

The crowd addressed by Peter was complicit in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. By raising Jesus from the dead, God showed them how tragically wrong they had been. But God delights in second (and even third and fourth) chances.

When the stricken crowd asked what they could do in light of their mistake, the answer was clear and hopeful. Have a change of mind and heart, be baptized in the name of Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit.

This gift was offered to all without distinction. And many took Peter up on the offer — about 3,000 souls. Peter exhorted his listeners to save themselves from “this corrupt generation.”

That generation was probably no more corrupt than any other — Peter was engaging in a bit of moralizing rhetoric. Most generations have been called corrupt or deficient, but this is nothing more than the human condition.

This incident reminds us that although we cannot undo the past, we can move forward and upward. We have to have a change of mind and heart and be willing to embrace a new consciousness and way of life.

As we grapple and come to terms with our own collective pasts, we acknowledge our injustices and lack of love. We resolve to do better and to “get it right” from now on. In recent years, we have begun to confront our racism, religious intolerance and the injustices associated with empire.

This is not political correctness, but the change of mind and heart that God asks of us. The evil generation from which we save ourselves is whatever generation flees from honesty and self-knowledge.

Jesus gave us the model to follow in this quest. Do not respond to abuse or injustice with violence, revenge or deceit. Always do what is right but be aware that approval might not come your way from others. That does not matter; always do what is right.

You have the only approval you will ever need, the approval of God. Jesus made this possible by bearing our sins and becoming the guardian and shepherd of our souls.

Why do some hear the voice of the Lord and follow, with full heart and soul, while others either reject Him or “follow” in a superficial and half-hearted manner? The evangelist has a quick and tidy answer. Those who do not heed the voice of Jesus do not belong to Him, in fact, they probably never did.

Today we would be more generous and understanding in explaining the phenomenon of belief and unbelief. We are more aware of our own inner workings and the influences of culture and experience. But real conversion is not a matter of theological proofs and rational arguments.

It is not just following the religion we inherit from our parents. We arrive at faith through the language of the heart, as in the words of Psalm 42:7, “deep calls to deep.” It is silent and yet harmonious; still, but filled with yearning and eager anticipation.

A person’s life experience, with all of its joys and difficulties, is usually a long preparation for that moment. The voice that “speaks” to us is authentic: compassionate, wise, non-judgmental and encouraging. It is not shrill, insistent or playing to our fears and resentments.

This is the voice that Jesus uses when He talks to us, and it is the same voice that He urges us to use when speaking to others. Jesus warns that many claim to be speaking on God’s behalf, but they are interested only in self-aggrandizement, power, wealth and control of others.

The Lord’s one wish is that we not only have life but have it abundantly, which means experiencing the transforming presence of God within us always.

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