Sunday, 26 April 2015

The Ebola Saint

10 Minute Daily Retreat - Read the Daily Gospel with a prayerful heart.
By Susanne Timpani (No.112)

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (10:11-18).
'I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and the sheep do not belong to him, abandons the sheep as soon as he sees a wolf coming, and runs away, and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep; he runs away because he is only a hired man and has no concern for the sheep.

I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep.

And there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and I must lead these too. They too will listen to my voice, and there will be only one flock, one shepherd.

The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will, and as I have power to lay it down, so I have power to take it up again; and this is the command I have received from my Father.'

I watched an interview about a nurse recently working in West Africa with victims of Ebola. When Anne Carey ('Ebola Saint' 60 Minutes) was asked why she volunteered, and so put her own life at risk, she responded by calling the virus a ‘bully.’

If someone was going to be beaten up by a bully, she said, you would go and help.  Anne, along with a medical team, believes that the risk is worth it so that they can provide comfort to the sick and dying. She also believes that it is a battle that will eventually be won.

Jesus’ image of Himself as the good shepherd carried a powerful punch to the disciples. If the sheep were attacked by wolves it was unlikely that a contract worker would stay around and fight them off. But if the owner was present, he would do whatever he could to protect them. Why?

What is the difference between the contract worker and the owner? What motivates volunteers like Anne? One of my children asked me once when they were young, why there so many songs on the radio about love. How do you explain the strength of the ingredient that holds relationships together?

That is the key word; relationship. What if ‘The Universe, The Great Spirit or The Unknown God’ was not only powerful and mysterious? What if He desired an intimate relationship with you and me? And what if that relationship extended to one of sacrifice, like in the story of Anne and the good shepherd?

Surely that is the message Jesus tried to convey in today’s parable of the good shepherd? It was the message of His sacrifice for you and me on the cross. 

We don’t know yet if the war over Ebola will be overcome. But we do know that the cross was superseded by the victory of the resurrection. Surely that is the Easter message that stays way beyond the disappearance of the chocolate egg?

Susanne Timpani
5 minutes: READ the text slowly.
REFLECT on a phrase or word that struck you.
SPEAK to God about your thoughts.
5 minutes: LISTEN to God speak to you.
RESPOND with a prayer that feels right for you.

Next Reflection: Colin Sutton   Wednesday, 29th April, 2015