Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
Remember when you were in the first and second grade. That is when most of us learned to print and to write for the first time. Our teachers gave us sheets of ruled or lined paper, two heavy lines with a dotted or fainter line in between them. We were taught to make our letters, upper and lower case, using those lines as a guide. Sometimes the letters of the alphabet were also printed in faint or "dotted" lines on the same paper. We were taught to trace the figures these ghostly letters indicated until we were able to form the letters without their aid. These tools were used as examples of the letters and words we were to produce with our pencils. In Greek, these tools would be called "hippogrammos."
This is the exact word that St. Peter uses in his First Letter from which we read today. Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps. (1 Peter 2:21b) The word "hippogrammos" here is translated into the English "example." Harking back to our first and second grade penmanship lessons, we come to understand that we are to trace the actions of Christ until we are able to produce them in our own lives.
Each of us realizes how far distant we are from the example Christ has set for us. He has literally lain down his life for us. St. John uses this fact in his extended metaphor of Christ as the noble shepherd. Just as the shepherd laid down on the ground, blocking the gate to the sheep pen, to protect the sheep in his care, Christ has laid down his life in order to protect us from sin.
St. Peter draws out his instructions to us in his Baptismal Sermon by reporting that Jesus did not threaten his persecutors, did not offer insult for insult, but rather went to his death meekly, as a lamb is led to slaughter. We are literally saved by his "dead body." How ironic that when we use the phrase, "over my dead body," our meaning is entirely different. We do not go meekly but rather fighting off our attackers all the way. Jesus, on the other hand, made no recourse to his own power and relied on the will of the Father.
I am not suggesting that we should lie down meekly and give up in our struggle against disease or disability. Indeed, we must in good conscience have recourse to the ordinary medical help that is available to us in dealing with our illnesses or disabilities. However, we can still take on Christ's attitude of meekness and humility by making an attitudinal adjustment. CUSANS best emulate the noble shepherd by joining with Christ in his redemptive suffering, by cooperating with the will of God, just as Jesus relied on the One who sent Him during his life time on this earth.