JOHNSON: Christ’s promise of abundant life is a trustworthy support on our way to recovery

May 26, 2020

Good Shepherd Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Easter, was days away as I began writing this article. Like most of you, the backdrop of my effort was several weeks of adjusting to social distancing and staying put and working from home. As chaplain and director of the Catholic Newman Center at the University of Houston, along with our ministry team members, I had to adapt to a more virtual ministry reliant upon technology like never before.

Still, questions have started to grow stronger in the back of my mind: how will we renew and jump start our sacramental and community life as Catholics? How can we attract people, not just to return to their parishes, but to a more authentic practice of our faith? How can the suffering and deaths of many people in our country and throughout the world due to the COVID-19 virus inspire us to follow Christ more closely?

Even though we are in familiar territory, the present moment almost seems like venturing into the unknown. Facing the risk of COVID-19 is like dealing with an invisible threat. We must call on the Good Shepherd to bring us back together as a flock and to lead us out into the pastures of the world we live; in our communities and parishes.

At the conclusion of the Gospel reading from Good Shepherd Sunday, John 10:10, Jesus makes a bold statement: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” This is, perhaps, my favorite saying of the Lord Jesus. In addition to being his purpose, he makes a promise to us: abundant life.

Once again, Christ is making clear his desire for us and for our well-being; not with ideas, but as an expression of love. He knows what we truly need and what our hearts yearn for. His love knows no limits; His love is never stored away, but always given.

After years of studies in theology, Bishop Robert Barron writes about reaching the following conclusion: “Christianity, I saw, was not our disciplined quest for God, but God’s relentless quest for us — even to the point of death.” The quest for us begins with the gift of life; His gift is for living more than mere existence. He gives, we live. We must continue the process.

Such is his recipe for abundance. The first step is always Christ’s initiative. His promise of life is abundant and seeks us out. Wealth and power tend to obscure it, while simplicity and gratitude make His gift grow even in the most difficult circumstances. Life is his blessing; sin is the world’s diminishment and rejection of the giver and His gift.

Before going out and restarting your routine, consider the Good Shepherd’s quest for you: His quest to find room in your heart and be made known to others through sincere expressions of kindness and charity. He promises abundant life, which grows stronger in us in the measure that we give it away. Christ gave and gives Himself for us; avail yourself to receive Him and share abundantly. 

Father Charles Johnson, O.P., is the chaplain and director of the University of Houston Catholic Newman Center.