Let's set the context for our first reading. It is Pentecost morning. Nine days earlier, Jesus had the disciples meet him in Galilee and commissioned them to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them all that he commanded of them. But he told them not to do that until he sent the Holy Spirit. So now, it is Pentecost. Which was already a Jewish holiday. That is why there were Jews present from all over. The eleven disciples and Mary were in the upper room praying and waiting for the Holy Spirit which Jesus promised to send to them. They hear sounds of rushing wind and then the Holy Spirit comes and rests in the form of tongues of fire over each of them. And emboldened by the Holy Spirit Peter stands up with the eleven gives the first Christian homily.
So this is that speech. Or at least part of it. It is a long speech in which he lays out salvation history. And explains that Jesus of Nazareth is the long-awaited Messiah. The one who the prophets foretold. And that he was put to death and was raised. This is the basic gospel message. The Kerygma. Every Christian needs to know this. Kerygma. The basic gospel message. God created the world good, but Adam and Eve disobeyed and as a result sin and disorder entered the world. Because of that Original sin and our personal sins, we deserve hell. We deserve to suffer eternal death. But God in his gracious mercy impliments a rescue mission. Jesus who becomes man, takes up our human nature, suffers and dies atoning for our sins. Making the perfect sacrifice of love on our behalf. And three days later he rises from the dead proving that sin and death does not have the last word. That he has defeated death. That is the Kerygma. The basic gospel message.
We are told that those who heard this were cut to the heart and asked Peter and the other Apostles what they are to do? We cannot be passive after hearing the Kerygma. The Kerygma demands a response on our behalf. Peter says, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit...Save yourselves from this corrupt generation"
Repentance, and baptism and saving yourself from this generation is necessary for salvation. Let's break this down a bit.
Repentance. Repentance isn't just being sorry for sins. It's a whole different way of living. It's acknowledging that I am not going to live my way. I am not going to be my own master, but submit to God in humility and obedience. To admit I am not God and he is and that means I owe absolute obedience to him. Deitrich Von Hildebrand called it an unqualified willingness to change. To give oneself totally to God and what he wants to do with me.
‘Be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.’ Baptism is necessary for salvation. Baptism actually cleanses us of sin, makes us part of God's family, and a Temple of the Holy Spirit.
‘Save yourself from this corrupt generation.’ The Greek word behind generation is geneas. Where we get genealogy from. So we can translate it as save yourself from this corrupt race, or family, or genealogy. So Peter isn’t just saying we need to be saved from this generation, meaning these forty years of people are unusually bad. No, he means we need to be saved from the fallen world. Meaning because of original sin we belong to the enemy. We belong to the fallen and sinful world. And as is, we can’t be saved. We must be saved from that fallen family of Adam and Eve and become a part of God’s redeemed family.
So a quick examination of Conscience for all of us. How much do we identify with the world? St. Peter calls it corrupt. He says it’s all bad, rotten. We must be saved from it. How much different are we than the world? Yesterday on Facebook, I was accused of not being with the times or living in a bubble because I don't celebrate every sin that the world wants to normalize. Based off of Peter's words, calling this generation corrupt, I'll take those accusations as a compliment. I think all faithful Christians should.
Friends we are called to be different and live differently. The Greek word for Church is ekklesia. It means to be called out of. Ek, out of. Klesia, called. Called out of what? This corrupt and fallen world. When will we all stop trying to straddle both generations—this corrupt generation and the eternal kingdom of God? When will we stop trying to hedge our bets and just say a complete yes to the Good Shepherd and leave this corrupt generation behind? Being Christian is not just calling yourself one. It is not just believing in Jesus. It’s not just going to Church on Sunday. It is choosing to belong totally to the Good Shepherd. It is about listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd.
This is the key to belonging to the Good Shepherd. Listening to his voice. This is what Jesus tells us today in our gospel. “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him and the sheep hear his voice...The sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.” The key to saving ourselves from this corrupt generation is to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd. The key to belonging to Jesus is to not listen to the voices of the corrupt generation, but to listen to Jesus. If we hope to distance ourselves from the fallen world, we need to listen to the voice of the Good shepherd.
How do we do that?
Daily personal prayer with the Scriptures. The Bible is the Word of God. And if we give God the time and silence, he can speak to us personally through our time in prayer. Praying with the Word of God.
Weekly study of Catholic Church teaching. Jesus speaks infallibly through his Catholic Church on matters of faith and morals. Do we believe that? It is by studying Church teaching, we are the most assured that I am listening to Jesus’ voice. Jesus didn’t give me the ability to infallibly hear his voice in prayer or even to interpret Scripture correctly. But he did give that promise to the Church. We save ourselves from this corrupt generation by forming our consciences in the truth and not by what the world says.
Praying the Mass. The Mass is the highest form of prayer. It is by entering into the paschal mystery present at Mass that Jesus speaks to our hearts on the deepest of levels. It is in the prayerful silence that I can reach out and touch God in faith. It is by receiving Holy Communion worthily that Jesus says to you, “I love you and I care for you.” We hear the voice of the Good Shepherd when we prayerfully engage in the great mystery of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Getting to know the saints. The saints most fully belonged to the Good Shepherd. They saved themselves from the fallen world. They listened most attentively to the voice of Jesus. When we immerse ourselves in the lives of the saints, our desire for greatness grows, we long for Jesus more, and we grow in courage to leave this corrupt world behind.
By daily personal prayer with the Bible. By weekly dedicating ourselves to learning the faith. By prayerfully uniting myself to the sacrifice being offered to God the Father. By immersing myself in the saints, I will hear the voice of Jesus.
So friends, put down the trashy novels, stop scrolling through facebook like a zombie, turn off the netflix and listen more and more to the voice of the Good Shepherd. By listening less to the world, we will more and more be drawn away from the cares, errors, sins and evils of this fallen world. By listening more and more to the voice of the Good Shepherd, we will find the good pasture. We will have life and have it more abundantly.