What our eyes cannot see, our heart perceives and understands

by Susanna Mak
Fourth Sunday of Easter

Acts 4:8-12

1 John 3:1-2

John 10:11-18

While the world has been turned upside down by the mighty Covid-19 virus and many continue to struggle with their physical, financial, psychological, and spiritual well-being, hope still abounds in the midst of such restlessness, fear, and distress. This Sunday’s readings reassure us that “there is no salvation through anyone else” but the beloved Son of God, “Jesus Christ the Nazorean” (Acts 4:12, 10). This Nazorean is not an outsider who does not understand human suffering, nor a hired hand who values their own life over that of the sheep under their charge, but the Good Shepherd who willingly “lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn 10: 11). 。Like Martha, who acknowledges Jesus’ salvific power even as she grieves for Lazarus’ death, “knows” that “he will rise in the resurrection on the last day”, we also “know” in our head that Jesus is the ultimate source of our salvation (Jn 11:24). However, do we truly see, and perhaps feel, it in our heart and soul?

The journey from head to heart is strenuous and challenging but necessary as we strive to follow the Good Shepherd’s voice. In the first reading, Peter, now without his beloved teacher and friend, shows no fear in front of the “leaders of the people and elders”; pointing out their faults and blessings in equal measure (Acts 4:8). This scene in the Acts of the Apostles stands in stark contrast to that of the Upper Room where Peter and the other apostles are hiding from the Jewish authorities in fear for their own lives. What is Peter’s secret weapon? Before Jesus’ departure, He had promised his followers an Advocate, the Spirit of truth, “whom the Father will send in [Jesus’] name (Jn 14:25). The Holy Spirit “will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (Jn 14:26). Peter finally sees what Jesus meant after the Pentecost. Therefore, with a heart transformed and empowered by the Holy Spirit (after receiving the Holy Spirit on Pentecost), Peter calls the leaders and elders out for choosing to crucify Jesus, “the Nazorean whom you crucified” (Acts 4:10). At the same time, Peter also offers them a way out, that is, hope. Peter explains that just as the cripple is healed and saved in Jesus’ name, salvation will come to those who call on His name (ref. Acts 4:9-10, 12). This stone, though rejected by the builders, has become the “cornerstone” on which our hope rests.

Our journey from head to heart is indeed challenging, if we don’t keep our eyes open and our ears tuned, we could easily get all tangled up in brambles. However, as we follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit, this strenuous journey suddenly turns into an adventure of a lifetime! The Spirit in us; the same Spirit promised by Jesus and given to us through the sacrament of confirmation, sharpens all our senses, and most importantly our heart, to “taste and see that the Lord is good”, and appreciate “what love the Father has bestowed on us” (Ps 34:8, 1 Jn 3:1). What our eyes cannot see, our heart perceives and understands, “we are God’s children now; … we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn 3:2). All our hope rests on this knowledge of the heart that we are God’s children, not orphans, and that God, our Father, will never forsake us even when we turn a blind eye to His love.

From the brambles of our own pride, Christ frees us with His ultimate sacrifice out of love, “I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own” (Jn 10:17-18). We “offer You our failures, we offer You attempts”; we rise again “to create ourselves anew” (“Ashes” by Tom Conry)

From the ashes of our fear, the Good Shepherd reassures, “I came so that [you] might have life and have it more abundantly [...] I will lay down my life for [you]” (Jn 10:10,15). Lord, we rise again in hope, joy, and love.

As we continue this joyful Easter season, let us dig deeper into our heart to heed and follow the voice of our Good Shepherd.