The Second Sunday after Easter
excerpt fromCOMMON PRAYER: A Commentary on the Prayer Book Lectionary
Volume 3: Easter to Pentecost (p. 24-25)
St. Peter Publications
Inc. Charlottetown, PEI, CanadaReprinted with permission of the publisher.
Bishop Lancelot Andrewes, in his Private Prayers, asks
God, not surprisingly, to remember and bless those who had done him good
in various ways -- by their writings, for example, or their guidance or
their prayers. And amongst these he makes special mention of those
who helped him by the injuries they had done him. Imagine -- among
those that he gives special thanks for are his enemies! So also at
the beginning of the Epistle for today, St. Peter says, "This is thankworthy,
if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully."
The same St. Peter, who when Jesus told the disciples about his coming
suffering and death (Matt. 16:22) could not bear the thought, now holds
up his Saviour as an example to all Christians of patient endurance.
As Christ suffered and died, a sacrifice for sin, so should each of us,
says the Apostle, be willing to suffer for Christ's sake. At last
he understood what Jesus had said in the Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed
are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil
against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your
reward is great in heaven..." (Matt. 5:11, 12).
If, during this Easter season, we are asked by the Church to contemplate
the means of our sanctification in light of the justification which is
ours through Jesus' resurrection, then on this Sunday we should be brought
to the knowledge that the primary means by which this sanctification occurs
is through suffering for Christ's sake. So we enter into the sacrifice
of Christ, so we "return to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls".
We have seen Christ endure his Passion; now it is time that we begin ours.
Secondly, we should on this Sunday remember that we are not left to depend
on our own resources in our labours. The Lamb who was slain is yet
in the midst of his flock, as the Good Shepherd, ever guiding, ever protecting
his beloved sheep. In the Book of Revelation St. John describes the
Lamb that was slain as himself feeding his sheep, and leading them to living
fountains of water (Rev. 7:17). He who died for us, and gave us that
proof of his love, has not gone away and left us in the wilderness of this
life, but is even now with us as the Good Shepherd.
O happy if ye labour
As Jesus did for men:
O happy if ye hunger
As Jesus hungered then!
(Cdn, Book of Common Praise, Hymn
It is important for us to realize, as we approach the Day of Pentecost,
that it is the Spirit of the Good Shepherd who will be sent to comfort
us. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus. Many Christians
today, in their understanding of the Holy Spirit, make him into a virtually
independent deity. The Holy Spirit's inspiration is claimed for all
sorts of beliefs and actions that are not consistent with the teachings
of Jesus. The possession of the gifts of the Spirit become objects
of pride and the cause of division, rather than the cause of humble thanksgiving
and a source of unity. Always remember: the Holy Spirit will never
guide you to do, say, or believe, anything that Jesus did not teach.
And above all, we should expect the Holy Spirit, if he is the Spirit of
Jesus, to give us patience in our afflictions, to suffer gladly the hurt
done to us by others, and lead us to love even our enemies more and more
deeply. The Lord is our Shepherd; therefore can we lack nothing!