What does it mean that we “may have life and have it to the full”? (Gospel). The fullness of life is perhaps best comprehended from a lack of it. We would all have experienced periods in our life where we felt an emptiness in us, a void that prompted us to seek and search. Despite everything going well with family and work, we are bugged by a restlessness in us. Initially we cannot quite grasp it. But an inner voice gradually echoes louder in that emptiness, “What is the meaning and purpose of my life?”
The fullness of life is not a reward or an exchange. The fullness of life is simply a higher state of our being. It is attainable by every person of every belief. We can taste it fleetingly or we may dwell in it. This higher state of our being is marked by peace, joy, contentment and fulfilment. Contrast it with the prizes of possessions and status we crave for in worldly life. We do realize that each bag of gold, each platinum level of status will never satisfy. It has not helped in this pandemic.
There is an ongoing lesson about this fullness of life as the world battles Covid-19. Along the front line, every health care worker and every support staff draw from deep within their ‘self’ to give their all to save lives, even at the risk of their own. Ask anyone of them and its guaranteed that they are at peace with a sense of fulfilment. They have gone to give their life so that others will have theirs to the full. These people have experienced what the fullness of life is. In what they have given, their life is holy.
“He was bearing our faults in his own body on the cross, so that we might die to our faults and live for holiness.” (Second Reading)
Most weeks I write inspired by this photo in front of me. This picture is today’s Gospel passage. “The sheep follow because they know his voice.” The Good Shepherd is unseen, “he goes ahead of them”, but the sheep are being led, following with the help of a shepherd faintly seen in the light of the sun in the background. In this whole scene I see the way to a higher state of being. It begins with humility, a surrender of self, to look upon ourselves as sheep. But mistake it not, striving to be truly humble is a lot tougher than chasing for gold and platinum.
The feeling that something is missing in my life can only be satisfied when we find the meaning of our life. An emptiness in life cannot be filled with possessions. The shepherd faintly seen in the photo is helping the Good Shepherd tend to his flock. He is not guarding possessions but is the helping hand of the Good Shepherd to look for the lost, to tend to the sick, to guide them through valleys of darkness, to comfort the weary, to lead them to green pastures, and involved in the daily life of the flock. He puts himself in danger for the sheep and is life-giving. His life is in holiness. He is a disciple.
A disciple is self-giving, always putting others first. A disciple gets involved in the life of others to share the fullness of life. This is a life where meaning and fulfilment are found.
In humility we will also recognise that throughout the journey of life our own actions have a consequent effect on others. Often, they cause harm. In humility we recognise that we are both shepherd and sheep, dependent on the goodness of one another. Helpful and helpless. Covid-19 has shown us this.
Covid-19 has also perhaps shown how lost we are. The underlying principle for the fastest way out of this pandemic is to truly love one another. Every measure to contain the virus, every step in our exit strategy is dependent on this principle. But few governments who lead us the way have managed to utter this word, “love”. Perhaps it no longer fit into the image of modern man. But love and holiness are a higher state of existence.
As we get our first haircut and start to eat out at a distance, we are running out of time to decide on our own exit strategy for our spiritual self. We can remain incognito and wait out these few weeks for life to return to what it was but where has that led us to? Or we can use this time to listen to that inner voice and map out our own exit strategy to move into this higher state of being and share in the fullness of life. What am I seeking? It is only in the fullness of life where our restlessness can be satisfied, where emptiness is full.
4th Sunday of Easter