How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly. John 10:24
Who of us has not struggled with acceptance and rejection, with being welcomed with open arms or being received with hostility? Sometimes the signs of welcome or rejection are subtle, but other times, they are clear. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is dealing with a hostile crowd who is clearly out to make him feel rejected. There is nothing he can say or do that will make them change their minds.
There was great rejoicing in my home parish of St. Agnes in Edna, Texas when I was ordained. Since my family was well known, not only within the parish, but throughout the region because of their faithful service to the Church, I felt blessed to be so well received by the people who knew my family for such a long time. There were no credibility issues there for me.
The first ten years of ministry were spent in Houston, Texas, Sierra Madre, California and then San Antonio, Texas. I discovered that there was a need to be accepted as authentic and credible in every new community where I was assigned. In all of my assignments, the people were patience and welcoming, with a few exceptions.
These were learning years for me. I began to sense when people who had long made up their minds about the faith, the Church and its teachings or which direction the Church was going, were either going to be open to what I was saying or would smile knowingly and then walk away.
Over the years, we have come across story after story of people who began their beautiful, successful lives by being rejected and demeaned by others. What this Gospel account does for me and for many of us, is to accept our personal value in God’s personal love for us. God’s personal love for us is all inclusive. It is not completive. It is not discriminatory. It is not conditional. Our human value comes from God’s unconditional love for me and for us within the whole of creation.
Jesus, in this Gospel, knew this. He knew that those who opposed him would never believe. Yet, he was willing to die for them also.
Let us not lose heart because people will not believe us, will not believe the Gospel message, will not believe the incredible love that God has for us. This kind of faith is what kept the early church going, as described in the first reading for today’s Mass. This kind of faith is what keeps Pope Francis going day after day.
This is why, even to this day; we are called “Christians!”
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Christ the King Community in Citrus Heights, California.