At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly."Jesus answered, "I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name testify to me;but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father's hand. The Father and I are one." John 10:22-30
Just in case you’re still confused about exactly who Jesus is, he connects all the dots for us in this brief passage from John. His questioners want to know if he is the Messiah. And Jesus takes their inquiry and hits it out of the park, telling them: The Father and I are one. It doesn’t get any more succinct or definitive than that. Not only is Jesus the promised Messiah, he is God, the Son of the Father, no less the Deity than the Creator of the universe.
For good measure, he then doubles down on his promise of eternal life for those who belong to his flock. In this passage Jesus expands on his earlier metaphor of the Good Shepherd, making a distinction between those who hear and follow him and those who reject him. To follow Jesus means more than admiring his virtue and his wisdom. It means more than acknowledging him as a holy man and a wonder worker. Being a Christian means accepting a world view that totally revolves around the risen Jesus, the Divine Son of the Father, the instrument of our salvation. Beyond that, as described in this week’s gospel, being a Christian means belonging to Jesus, body and soul. It’s a tall order and seldom achieved in one miraculous leap.
What does belonging to Jesus mean? First let’s look at what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean mechanically checking the boxes of religious obligation: church on Sunday, check; stewardship, check; don’t rob any banks, check; don’t murder that annoying guy next door, check. Belonging to Jesus is not about reluctantly meeting the minimum requirements of membership. Belonging to Jesus means actively, constantly living in his love. Baptism sets the table for this feast of love. But we must come to it every day, with clean hands and clean hearts, hungry for the love of Christ, to sustain and nourish us in his service. Belonging to Christ is not feast or famine. It is feast and feast, through all the stages of our lives. It is the joy of discovery in childhood and youth. It is the growing resolve of virtue in maturity. It is fulfillment and consolation in declining years. It is the comfort of homecoming in our final days.
We are made in God’s image for a purpose. Our lives are to be actively spent in loving God and neighbor. To forget our purpose, to take it for granted, to file it away as a get-out-of-hell-free card, makes a mockery of Calvary and squanders our legacy of love. We are his. We belong to him. And belonging to him sets us free of sin, of fear and of mortality. Every day, Lord, we are coming closer, home where we belong. Alleluia!
God love you!