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

Post-Lent review... How did you do?

Lent is now behind us, yet in our excitement for Easter (and for Lent being over), how often to you take a moment to look back at your Lenten journey to do a post-game review?

As a volunteer leader and business school graduate, the concept of doing a formal "review" after an event or activity is a long held important practice... one that, unfortunately, tends to get overlooked even at the highest levels.  Still, it remains a staple of standard practice, and for good reason... It affords those involved, and the entire organization, a chance to review everything after the fact... what went well, what didn't, and lay the groundwork for next time.  The same is true for looking back at our Lenten journey.  So... how did you do?

I have to be honest, I sometimes fail to practice what I preach.  For as important as a post-lenten review might be, I hadn't thought of the idea until now.  I didn't even really think about it until this morning when I read the following artic…

5th Sunday of Easter

What happens when you have too much of a good thing?  When a business wins that lucrative new contract or expands into a new location?  Or taking that same idea a bit closer to home, what happens when two families merge through marriage, or when a family welcomes a new child?  We consider this kind of growth to be a good thing, but as with all things, these successes also come with their own baggage.  Our readings for this 5th Sunday of Easter have our Apostles facing similar challenges in the face of their growing successes.

The Word for the 5th Sunday of Easter Acts 6:1-7
Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19
1 Peter 2:4-9
John 14:1-12

Our reading from Acts of the Apostles learning the hard way about the challenges that grow out of their continued success when their number of followers continues to grow.  Up to this point the Apostles have been doing their best to address the needs of the community, both spiritual and physical, but the community has grown so large now that they are becom…

3rd Sunday of Easter

Easter is about revelation!  On Easter Sunday we revealed that the tomb was found empty.  Last week Jesus revealed himself to the Apostles in the upper room, reminding us that “Blessed are those who have not seen, but still believe.”  This Third Sunday of Easter, Jesus is revealed through the breaking of the Bread.


The Word for the 3rd Sunday of Easter Acts 2:14, 22-33
Psalm 16:2, 5, 7-11
1 Peter 1:17-21
Luke 24:13-35

In our first reading from Acts of the Apostles we have Peter, discovering his voice and standing before all of Jerusalem giving witness about who Jesus was and what happened there.  It’s both a reminder to those present who also witnessed these events, and a much necessary explanation for those who (like us) were not there (especially Luke’s primarily Gentile audience).  The heart of Peter’s message reminds us that this messiah was killed by his own people, but through that act, as prophesied by their greatest king, David, has been raised by God, and sends his Ho…