4th Sunday of Easter
May 8, 2022
Welcome to Good Shepherd Sunday! There is significance to our celebration of the fourth week of Easter as Good Shepherd Sunday. We are in the midst of the Easter Season in which we celebrate the Resurrection, we celebrate the great Mercy of God and dedicate specific time to reflect on His great desire for us to know that He is our Shepherd, He will take great care of us…always…no matter what.
Acts 13:14, 43-52
Revelations 7:9, 14b-17
With today’s gospel we find Jesus in the midst of another challenge from the Jews. This discussion occurs during the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem, or more commonly referred to as Hannukah. It is a feast lasting eight days in celebration of the deliverance of the Israelites from the Syrians as well as a celebration of the rededication and cleansing by Judas Maccabeus around 164 B.C. The Jews have challenged Jesus to say plainly that He is the Christ – not because they believed that He is but because they wanted to again trap Him.
Jesus of course recognizes their tricks and answers them by telling them they are not believers in Him or His works, and they are not among His sheep. God is referred to as a shepherd in Genesis, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Micah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, and the Psalms…the Jews were well aware of how Jesus was positioning Himself. In those Old Testament passages, God is a loving and protective God who takes care of those who will follow Him. And those who choose not to follow Him, well, good luck because things won’t work out so well.
Jesus goes further and equates Himself to the Father. Deuteronomy, Wisdom, and Isaiah all express the sovereign power of God to care for those who follow Him. Jesus is now equating Himself as the one who will care for the righteous. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish…My Father, who has given them to Me is greater than all…I and the Father and are one.” That was too much for the Jews who then want to stone Him.
Jesus is firmly placing Himself in the eternal presence of the Father with the Holy Spirit. It will be the source of great debate among the Jews, and well into the early Church. In 325 A.D. the Church established the teaching that the Trinity is Father, Son and Holy Spirit; specifically the Christological divine nature of Jesus.
Our first reading is again from book of Acts of the Apostles and describes the efforts of Paul and Barnabas to bring Jews and Gentiles into the flock to be cared for by Jesus, but we see many of them refuse to accept their teachings. Paul and Barnabas are carrying forth the teaching Jesus is sharing in our gospel reading – He is the shepherd to those who choose to follow Him.
The choice is of course ours to make. Jesus did not insist the Jews follow Him, He offered them the chance to do so – some did, some did not. Paul and Barnabas were carrying forth the mission of Christ, they try to convince the Jews that these Gentiles who had converted to Judaism (the term Christian had not yet arrived) were entitled to participate in the services at the synagogue. However, just as the Jews listening to Jesus let their egos get in the way, the people listening to Paul and Barnabas could not accept that a convert could possibly be a part of the chosen people.
We see in our second reading that those who do not recognize that Jesus is the Good Shepherd calling everyone to Himself are absolutely misguided. “I, John, had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb…” There, at the throne are all those who Jesus shepherds.
What does a Good Shepherd do? He takes care of His sheep. All of His sheep. Always. From the time each soul is created through all of eternity, the Shepherd cares for us. That is one of the big things that distinguishes the Trinity from pagan gods – whether those are the pagan gods of the Old Testament, or the so called gods of today’s religions, or a tree, or anything else we put in place of the Trinity – our loving God seeks a personal bond with us as a lively engaged relationship . Rejoice in that!
Theme in our Life Today
The Jews in this Sunday’s reading and gospel were invited to allow Jesus to shepherd them – they had a choice and Jesus would respect whatever choice they made. Our relationship with Jesus is a daily choice with incredibly wonderful outcomes for those of us who choose correctly.
“My sheep hear my voice…” Do you hear it? Do you hear the voice of God speaking to you? What is He telling you? Is it what you want to hear? Do you hear Him as a Good Shepherd…or maybe more as a parole officer? Is God there to take care of you, or is He there to “get you”?
Is what you hear and absorb into your heart, soul and mind the Truth of God, or some goofy and warped manipulation of the Truth that mankind can twist to fit your own desire? Is God right and you might just be wrong? Are the teachings of the Church around faith and morals derived from the Good Shepherd, or do you make your own teachings to fit what you think is the Truth?
Does the Good Shepherd want good things for you? Do you think you are a lost sheep that the Good Shepherd has simply forgotten? Will you accept the good things that the Shepherd wants for you? Is it worth the trouble that the Shepherd asks you to undertake for someone else? Are you willing to show someone else what a smile from the Good Shepherd looks like? Are you willing to extend your time to someone simply because they are a child of God the Good Shepherd has put them into your life, even if it is only for a moment?
Will you listen for His voice? Will you be willing to take a risk to help someone else, trusting that the Good Shepherd will take care of you too? Will you sit and listen to another of the Good Shepherds sheep, and just listen because they are lonely?
Will you smile at the Good Shepherd? He sure is smiling at you!!
To Prepare for this Sunday’s Liturgy, consider the following:
Get to Reconciliation so you can hear the Good Shepherd
Pray the Rosary, and as you begin tell God something you have never said to Him
Spend time at the Adoration Chapel
Add another Catholic app to your phone that you can check real quick throughout the day to be reminded that you are loved!