Enter by the True Door
Fourth Sunday of Easter. Fr Edward Booth reminds us that Christ is both the Shepherd and the Door to the sheepfold.
The Gospel from Saint John speaks of Our Lord not only as the Guide and Saviour in salvation, but more particularly of the unique condition of personal restoration to the true condition of man, that is ‘everyman’, which is a restoration of a condition once lost in a revolt against God of an historical pair of man and woman. This would seem to entail an equally historical condition of return.
The conception is a human reconstruction and, as such, would not seem to differ from the normal path of scientific reasoning, of which it would evidently be, according to a judgement which gives to it the highest value and importance amongst all of the speculative considerations which present themselves to people wishing and capable of undertaking precisely that speculation in a manner which sets itself that task in a way which is completely authentic.
But it would be expected of every such person that he would make a continuous critique of the task which he has set himself, that he would wish to make sure that he has set himself a task which must remain totally detached, that the task is not a product of human creativity. The task is totally objective, given the objectivity of what is sought. It must not be a product of subjectivity, because human subjectivity is, by definition, excluded from a grasp, a comprehension of what is ultimate. A subjective and human conception of what is objectively ultimate cannot itself be objectively ultimate.
Awareness of this problem illustrates the true dimensions of the separation from God in the initial revolt; the consequent task of restoration and recapitulation seems destined to place all men in the condition of a constant search which can have no ending.
The Gospel of Our Lord of himself as both Universal Shepherd and Doorway for all to the universal Sheepfold, to which all the sheep are to be brought for both rest and protection, does represent the Divine Initiative in which its Divine language can, through a positive revelation, expect to reach through to the human mind at its most sensitive depth and expose to it a timeless answer to its highest and most necessary question. Such a situation demands that the situation and the remedy is totally understood by the God who reveals himself, and who can himself address the man who arrives in the situation of putting his question in a language which this man can understand.
Here Our Lord asserts, as he must assert, that he is revealing the situation which is present when men, at their best, describe what is absolute as the object of a quest which imposes itself universally on every man. There is no place for a ‘nicely calculated less or more’ in the threshold of this question which appears to be in the revelation and discovery of a Temple Sanctuary, not the activity of the lonely scholar with his thoughts or of the scholar who places himself in a centre of a dense social net-working.
Our Lord looks out from the Heaven in which he is fully conscious of his being a changeless Ruler and Inhabitant and says that those who belong to him in this place will recognise his voice and follow him, and that there are others who have found their way there on the basis of their own talents and efforts who regard this Sanctuary enclave as open to all seekers and enquirers. But as long as these remain with their own construction and reconstruction of the Temple-Sanctuary they can never enter it. Not having the dispositions which correspond to the absolute which he reveals as its Possessor and Master, these constructors, notwithstanding their special self-pleading, will produce destruction.
There will be positive progress where not only the Message and Gospel of the Chief Shepherd will be respected, but where he himself is the entrance to the true sheepfold, intended for the rest and protection of his flock, with Himself being both Shepherd and Doorway to make up a unity; and they reveal themselves as such. The decision to accept their unity and to end the human discord from Heaven lies within the capacity of all men. This Shepherd who is also the Doorway speaks a language which is absolute, which on inspection is fully so, and which we can understand. Amen.