May 11, 2014


I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved…. – John 10: 9

   What is the context here? Jesus was frustrated by the spiritual blindness & insensitivity of those who had excommunicated the blind man whose sight had been restored.  Jesus uses the shepherd as an image to make an astonishing claim for Himself. It is not so much that He is a good shepherd or even a shepherd, but that He is the good shepherd, the door by which salvation comes.

   The Lord’s religious opponents of His day & many in our own have something in common: an astonishing arrogance. While theirs sprang from a Hebraic monotheism that sees the claim as blasphemous, ours springs from a pigmy mentality of a secularism that finds it inconceivable that one man’s religious opinions might in some way be better than another’s.

   Secularism is a religion too – one which places all value & meaning in what we can know about life in this world, & rejects such inconvenient notions as “transcendence” & “otherworldliness.” For some, life is a kind of death because it is lived without God who they consider to be too aloof to be in our midst; for others death is only explainable in terms of life, the lifewe know, as something unpleasant but natural for all that, & so it should be stoically accepted. For either type, incarnation is intolerable; but the resurrection put the lie to both.

   If the Jews who threw out the blind man with restored vision had a problem with “farsightedness,” modernists are plagued with “nearsightedness.” Since the latter fits our day & time, let us concentrate on it. Too much religious thinking these days is an unoriginal collage of religious ideas pasted together hastily so as to leave nothing out. This is also true of much of our personal lives as well.

   Recognizing the base motives that often masquerade in religious garb in an attempt to gain respectability, & without minimizing the horror & suffering which has been perpetrated in the name of religion (both in the past & currently in such places as the Middle East), it still must be said that such conflicts at least testify to the reality that religion IS & matter of life & death & not just some ornamentation that can be rearranged with changing fashions.

   The Vincentian Canon which defines the Catholic faith as “that  which has been professed everywhere, always & by everyone” has been rewritten nowadays to read as “that which  MAY be professed at anytime, anywhere & by anyone.” We moderns of the Western world have come to believe in everything, which is to say we believe in nothing. The result is not only bewilderment & confusion but sawdust that feeds no one.

   There is the story of a woman on a ferry boat off the North African coast at night. She wanted to take a picture of the Rock of Gibraltar but couldn’t because she was out of flash bulbs. The door of eternal life has been given to us & it is not a vague shadow-life empty of the ability to taste real pleasure, but a vital, abundant life that can embrace even suffering & death. We want to walk away from it because we are out of flash bulbs. Oh for the vision of the saints, who need neither eyes to see nor hands to touch; but whose hearts are big enough to recognize the true Shepherd & Guardian of our souls!  AMEN!