Skip to main content

4th Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday)

The image of Jesus as “the good shepherd” is a popular and beloved representation of Christ.  Even for those of us long separated from this type of agrarian life, the image of a shepherd as someone who is both leader and caretaker is one that we can easily understand.  It’s an image for our Lord that has been used often by the prophets, none have done it better than John’s gospel which we read today, leading us to refer to this day as “Good Shepherd Sunday.”


Acts 13:14, 43-52
Psalm 100:1-2, 3, 5
Revelation 7:9, 14b-17
John 10:27-30

Our first reading from Acts of the Apostles has us traveling with Paul and Barnabas’ on their first journey to Antioch..  Their first visit to the Synagogue went so well that they are invited to come back the following week.  Our narrative opens with their next visit, only this time their reception is mixed.  This rejection by some of the Jews drives Paul to take their message to the Gentiles in Antioch, where it is much better received.  The disaffected Jews manage to get the Apostles ejected from the city, thus giving rise to the phrase “shaking the dust from their feet” and moving on.  The passage tells us that the Apostles “were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.”  That joy is reflected in our Psalm as we sing “We are his people, the sheep of this flock.”

Paul and Barnabas were happy because they believed in Christ and his message, and were able to spread that joy to others causing them to believe.  Still, as our story says, not everyone was convinced.  Rather than argue, however, the Apostles chose to move on, and continue to spread their message to those more willing to listen.

Our second reading continues our study of the Book of Revelation.  This week’s passage shows us a great multitude of people, all races and nations, dressed in white robes.  These are those who believe, and they are lead off to “springs of life-giving water.”  This particular vision of John’s resonates deeply with those in the RCIA process, for it depicts baptism to new and everlasting life for these “elect” of God.  For those who have made it through difficult times, God provides comfort and “wipe away every tear.”

Our gospel from John reiterates this promise of eternal life.  In this very short but very significant passage, Jesus says “My sheep hear my voice.”  Those of us who believe know his voice and follow him, and in doing so eternal life is theirs.  Further, as it is God himself that has lead them to Jesus, no none can take them away.  This particular passage comes to us at a fairly significant time in Jesus’ journey, placed just after the story of the man born blind, but just before the raising of Lazarus… that last great miracle before his Passion.

Final thoughts:
For as much as we love the image of Jesus as the good shepherd, that “warm fuzzy” tends to quickly fade when we realize that WE are the sheep.  We are the SHEEP?  Wait a minute… that doesn’t sound like a good thing, does it?  I mean, sure, even with the likes of Jesus being our shepherd, it’s still hard to escape this understanding that we’re cast as just “dumb animals.”

Throughout literary history there has been a negative connotation with people being referred to as “sheep.”  People mindlessly following a person or a cause, usually to their self-destruction.  In fact, it’s an image that non-believers like to throw in our faces as evidence of our lack of reason.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  Just as we consider Jesus to be above any ordinary shepherd, we, as his sheep, are far above ordinary sheep.  For you see, God has gifted us with reason and free will.  This reason and free will is part of our human nature, and separates us from the other animals.  When Jesus, through John, refers to us as “sheep,” he’s not taking away our reason and free will.  In fact, he’s recognizing it and reinforcing it through our right to hear and to choose Christ.  In fact, it’s a subtle joke against those with whom he is debating in the Temple area (at Solomon’s Portico, where we heard Peter preaching in Acts of the Apostles in our readings two weeks ago):  Those of us who are smart enough to hear the truth will also know who best to follow.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

3rd Sunday of Advent

The third Sunday of Advent marks the midpoint of the season… in Catholic terms, this is like “hump day”, where we happily see that the conclusion of our journey is within sight.  Referred to as Gaudete Sunday, it takes its name from the Latin word for rejoice.  We will hear this word several times throughout this Sunday's Mass in our prayers and our readings.  We light the rose colored candle on our Advent wreaths, rose being a mixture of Advent violet and Christmas white.  Not only is Christmas a joyous occasion to celebrate the birth of our Lord, but it reminds us that we are joyous (not fearful) of his return.


The Word for the 3rd Sunday of Advent Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11
Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

We open with a great announcement from Third Isaiah, that the anointed brings glad tidings to the poor.  If his words sound familiar, they should.  Not only are they reminiscent to the announcement made by the angels to the shepherd in th…

4th Sunday of Lent

This Sunday we continue our Lenten journey through Salvation History with a continued focus on covenant.  We’ve already given witness to the covenants with Noah, Abraham, and Moses.  This week we turn our attention to the Davidic Covenant (the covenant with King David), or more accurately, the covenant with the monarchy of Israel.


The Word for the 4th Sunday of Lent 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23
Psalms 137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6
Ephesians 2:4-10
John 3:14-21

Our first reading comes from the end of the 2nd book of Chronicles.  Though our intent this Sunday is to remember the Davidic Covenant, our Lectionary has chosen an interesting approach.  Rather than give us a story about King David, we are presented with a story  from the end of the Babylonian Exile.  Why approach the covenant with David from this tail-end view? 

It’s an approach that actually fits very well with the Book of Chronicles, for you see, the Book of Chronicles is much more than a retelling of the story we heard in books …

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Our readings this week focus on a core theme that runs through Jesus’ ministry… repentance.  There is no sin so grave that cannot be forgiven with true contrition and a return to God.  This was the message that John the Baptist proclaimed, and the message Jesus continued as he took up his ministry.  This theme not only runs through the gospels, but is a major theme that binds the entire Bible into a cohesive volume. 


The Word for the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Psalm 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Mark 1:14-20

Our first reading comes from the book of Jonah.  The story of Jonah is well known in both Jewish and Christian circles, yet for all its popularity, we only hear it in the Liturgy this once.  For this reason, many Catholics only have a passing familiarity with Jonah’s story.  They know his name and that he was swallowed by a large fish (or whale), but that’s about it.  In our passage this week, God asks Jonah to go through the city of Nineveh preac…