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“I AM” – Called to be a Christian

Fr. Rick Walsh, CSP
April 26, 2024

In this past Sunday’s homily, I made the point that in John’s gospel, Jesus shared dramatic statements in reference to himself. Utilizing the well-known phrase of God’s self-identification to Moses, “I am”, Jesus, on seven occasions, declared, “I am the bread of life”; “I am the light of the world”; “I am the sheepgate”; “I am the Good Shepherd”; “I am the Resurrection and the Life”; “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”; “I am the Vine and you are the branches.”

It is the seventh (a special number in the Bible) “I am” saying that we find Jesus inviting us to live through Him, with Him, and in Him; “Abide in me as I abide in you!”

If we can live in Christ as branches on the Christ vine, then perhaps we could also live in Him by incorporating the other “I am” identities. Indeed, are we not capable of incorporating the other mystical identities of Christ through our participation in the sacraments? Is this not a good way to understand what it means to be a Christian?

We may not be THE Bread of Life nor THE light of the world, just as we are not THE Vine, we do however participate in the Vine’s life, as branches. We also are each called to be light for the world, food for the spiritually hungry, protector of the weak and vulnerable, and so on.

In my homily I shared that in the course of the passion of Jesus, as recorded by the author of John’s gospel, the unnamed “beloved disciple” took on the qualities of the good shepherd. He fearlessly stayed with Jesus, the Lamb of God who was to be slain.

Peter, on the other hand, behaved more like the hired shepherd Jesus had warned about, who runs away to avoid the present danger. I went on to share that it was not until Jesus spoke privately with Peter after His resurrection and forgave him, that Peter was able to behave more like the Good Shepherd. This was because he, like the beloved disciple, knew that he was loved by Christ Jesus.

In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard Peter’s speech directed at those same leaders he once feared. Peter was finally acting as a good shepherd!

This knowledge of being loved by Christ, by God, is given to each one of us through the Holy Spirit. Of course, we have to really know this truth in our hearts. If we do not cultivate our relationship with the Lord, how will we be able to accept the responsibility to live on in His love as branches on the vine? How will we help lead others discover the Way, the Truth, and the Life?

I wonder what we would be capable of, if we took the time to ponder the “love God has bestowed on us in Christ, in letting us be called children of God.” I suspect our world would be a better place.