4th Sunday of Easter
Once I asked a friend this question: “What are you looking for?” And he readily answered by asking me: “Aren’t we all looking for the good life?” Upon elaborating on it, I got the impression that “the good life” he is looking for is like a personal wish list: lasting marriage, happy family, a certain level of affluence, some success in career, freedom from sickness or suffering. Is it safe to say that this is also, more or less, “the good life” we are looking for?
The way Jesus describes himself in today’s gospel passage is intimately connected to “finding the good life.” Jesus tells us, “I am the good shepherd.” The Good Shepherd leads us to the good life.
“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” That is what we say in Psalm 23. Every time we say or pray this psalm, we profess our faith in Jesus the Good Shepherd. It is a profound expression of our faith and trust in Jesus who can give us the good life.
Allow me to ask you a provocative question: What kind of Savior do you want Jesus to be? I read an article with an intriguing title: “The Prozac Jesus.” Prozac is a drug used to treat depression and anxiety. Depression is a mental illness that makes you feel extremely unhappy; while anxiety is a mental illness that makes you feel extremely worried. The article is basically saying that some people treat Jesus just like Prozac. They take him like a drug that can help them to feel happy and unworried. Maybe many of us want nothing more than “Prozac Jesus” who will make us feel better and make our lives easier.
Many of us want control and influence more than we want redemption. We wish we had more control over the people and circumstances of our lives. That would be “the good life” for us.
Many of us crave for success and accomplishment more than we crave for redemption. Be it success in our profession, career, or business. We are willing to do almost anything to be successful. Meanwhile we neglect what God says has eternal value.
Many of us esteem acceptance more than we esteem redemption. We find more happiness in the acceptance, respect, and admiration of the people around us than we do in the abounding love of God. What others think of us, what others say about us seems to be more important to us than God’s loving acceptance of us.
Many of us desire comfort and pleasure more than we desire redemption. If our lives could just be easier and more comfortable, we would be satisfied and happy. If we could just have this or that convenience, we would be grateful and joyful.
Many of us want material wealth and possession more than we want redemption. We tend to judge the quality of our lives by the amount of income and profit we get, by how fat are our bank accounts, by the number of our cars and mansions.
These things are not bad in themselves. It is not wrong to desire any of them. The question is: What set of desires rules my heart? This is important because the desires that rule our heart determine how we evaluate our life, how we make small and big decisions, and, most importantly, how we think about the goodness and faithfulness of God.
The Lord is much, much more than Prozac Jesus. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for us… the Good Shepherd who wills what is best for us… the Good Shepherd who gives us the good life. The good life God is offering us does not consist merely of material and physical blessings; it is not just “good things.” The good life God is giving us is a person, and his name is Jesus – the Good Shepherd.
Let us end with a prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the Good Shepherd who leads me to the green pastures and who gives me the good life. Make me want and crave for redemption more than control, success, acceptance, comfort, pleasure, and material things. Help me to follow God’s will; and may it be the very definition of the good life I desire. Amen.