Sunday the 4th Week of Easter
Acts 2: 14a, 36-41 1 Peter 2: 20b-25 John 10: 1-10
“Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:14). The Shepherd was led to the slaughter like a silent sheep, but God raised him in glory to shepherd the flock and lead it to lush pasture. “All of us, like sheep, have gone astray and followed our own way” (Is. 53:6). Through the Paschal Mystery we are reminded that God so loved the world that he send his only son to seek, find, and save the lost (CF. Lk. 19:10). The Only-begotten Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart (CF. Jn. 1:18) leaped down from heaven leaving his royal throne (CF. Wis. 18:15) to search out and find those who had gone astray, calling each one by name (CF. Jn. 10:3). “Like a shepherd, he tends the flock. He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart” (Is. 40:1). Jesus shares the intimacy that he has with the Father with us.
Seeing our pitiable condition, the Good Shepherd is moved to compassion for us. As he sets out in search of his lost sheep, the shepherd prays: “Father, [help me find them] so that they all may be one, just as you are in me, and I am in you” (Jn. 17:21). It is important to keep in mind that Jesus does not excuse our wandering just to make us feel good about ourselves. Rather, he seeks us out and walks with us so that we might come to the truth and be set free. Gently and honestly, he speaks to our hearts; then he patiently waits for our response. Only then, when we are ready to let Him, does He pick us up and draw us close to His heart. The wonder of mercy, God urgently and passionately calls to us, but He leaves us free to respond. He will only wrap his arms around us if we let him. Only those who surrender to his loving call can receive remission of their sins and enjoy the newness of life in the Spirit.
The image of the shepherd calling his sheep by name and leading them out brought to mind a verse from the Book of Genesis. “The man and his wife heard the voice of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze” (Gen. 3:8). God enters into our personal space and speaks a word of love to our hearts. The Psalmist having heard the call of God penned these beautiful words. “Know that the Lord is God. He created us, and we belong to him. We are his people, the sheep of his flock” (Ps. 100: 3). We can confidently depend on the Good Shepherd’s love and care for us. He leads us to lush green pastures. He protects us from attacks of ravenous beasts. When we wander off on our own, he risks his own life to find us and bring us back to the fold. When we are thirsty He brings us to streams of living water. We have no reason to fear because the Lamb was slain so that we might live. By his wounds, we have been healed and by his victory over sin and death, we have found peace of mind and heart.
The good Shepherd knows his sheep and loves them. He lays down his life to protect them from harm. He guides them with His Spirit and word. He calls each one to follow Him and then personally shows us the way that leads to the Father. Jesus tells us that he is the good shepherd who cares for his sheep and takes a personal interest in each of us. There is no limit to God’s love for us. No enemy can snatch us out of his hand. In Christ’s life, death, and resurrection we come to know God’s all-consuming desire to be with us and be part of our lives. He defends us from harm and keeps us safe. He wards off all danger by placing himself between us and all that could harm us. Jesus Christ takes on himself the task of reuniting the flock, being the shepherd and guardian of our souls.
In another place, John wrote: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no one comes to the Father but through me” (Jn. 14:6). This is a reiteration of Jesus’s comment “I am the gate for the sheep” (Jn. 10:9). He is not only our guardian from harm. He is also our access to the Father of Lights, the Shepherd of Israel. We need to keep in mind Paul’s words to Timothy, “There is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5). When Jesus calls himself the gate for the sheep, he is speaking of his special relationship to the sheep. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote, “Jesus and the people he makes holy have one Father. For this reason, he is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters” (Heb. 2:11).
Since Jesus is not ashamed to acknowledge us as intimate members of his family, we should joyfully acknowledge him as our brother, Lord, and Savior. The Shepherd of our souls laid down his life for us so that we might “have life and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). The sheep of God’s flock are offered a relationship of trust and safety because of the loving compassion of the shepherd. Not only does He grant us abundant life, but He also safeguards that life for us. Having entered the fold, we need to listen attentively to the voice of the shepherd and follow wherever he leads. The Christian vocation is always a renewal of this personal friendship with Jesus Christ, which gives full meaning to our lives and makes us open to the Kingdom of God.
Day by day we must learn to communicate the life of Christ, Lamb, and Shepherd, to all we meet. The Good Shepherd tends his flock with deep tenderness and with an outstretched arm he protects it from evil. Having been grafted to the shepherd through Baptism, we are called to exist for others, for Christ. Through Him and with him we are called to be there for the people he seeks, whom he wants to lead on the path of life. May the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for us continue to accompany us throughout our journey to the Father. May the Good Shepherd, who left no stone unturned as he searched for us, make us patent with one another. As the Good Shepherd walks ahead of us may we keep our eyes focused on Him and follow Him wherever He leads.
On the Cross
by St Theodore the Studite
How precious the gift of the cross, how splendid to contemplate! In the cross there is no mingling of good and evil, as in the tree of paradise: it is wholly beautiful to behold and good to taste…
By the cross, death was slain and Adam was restored to life. The cross is the glory of all the apostles, the crown of the martyrs, and the sanctification of the saints. By the cross, we put on Christ and cast aside our former selves. By the cross, we, the sheep of Christ, have been gathered into one flock, destined for the sheepfolds of heaven.