Fr Vincent's reflections on the 4th Sunday of Easter 2021
Jesus tells us that he is the Good Shepherd and that he will lead his sheep and even give up his life for his sheep. It is comforting to know Jesus’ great love for his sheep, for us. The question we need to ask ourselves: how well do we listen to Jesus and follow his guidance in our lives?
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Fourth Sunday of Easter (April 25, 2021)
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. R/. Amen.
The Grace and Peace of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. R/. And with your spirit.
On this Fourth Sunday of Easter, let us pray:
Almighty ever-living God,
lead us to a share in the joys of heaven,
so that the humble flock may reach
where the brave Shepherd has gone before.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. R/. Amen.
Please pause this video and retrieve your Bible so you can follow along.
The Gospel today is John 10:11-18.
✠ A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
“I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A hired man, who is not a shepherd
and whose sheep are not his own,
sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away,
and the wolf catches and scatters them.
This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice,
and there will be one flock, one shepherd.
This is why the Father loves me,
because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.
I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.
This command I have received from my Father.”
The Gospel of the Lord. R/. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
The Fourth Sunday of Easter has for a very long time had a Gospel reading where Jesus uses the image of a shepherd, so it is commonly referred to as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” Today, in John’s Gospel, Jesus directly says that he is the Good Shepherd, and says that he will lay down his life for his sheep. This is what we have celebrated with Easter, that Jesus has laid down his life and taken it up again in the Resurrection. The question for us today is whether or not we will follow Jesus as devotedly as sheep follow their shepherd. You see, knowing Jesus is the Good Shepherd and knowing that he has laid down his life for us, does not automatically make us attentive and obedient sheep.
I would hazard to say that more than a few of Jesus’ sheep take him for granted as the Good Shepherd. Fortunately, Jesus has laid down his life for all of his sheep, even those who do not follow so well. And he never stops calling even the straying sheep back to his care and protection. But, there is something in our fallen, sinful, human nature that makes us believe we don’t need to listen to anyone, even Jesus! We like to tell ourselves: “I know enough to make my own decisions.” That’s when we get ourselves into trouble!
The first step in getting back to Jesus as our shepherd is admitting that I need a shepherd. Not that I want to make you feel guilty, at least not too much, but start counting the mistakes you have made, and continue to make, on a regular basis. Do you let your emotions get the better of you? Look up “Seven Deadly Sins,” in case you need a reminder of how our emotions get us into trouble. So much for being able to guide and direct our own lives, right? Even though we know those sins and want to get rid of them, trying to do so on our own does not get us very far, does it? So, admitting that we easily get off the right path is a start.
Then we need to learn the Good Shepherd’s voice so we will know it when we hear it. You know that there are countless “voices” in our world, all vying for our attention. And some of them are loud and alluring. They promise all sorts of things that appear to be enjoyable and therefore worth pursuing. But just like the sirens of Greek legend, so many attractive voices only lead to destruction. So, we need to learn the voice of Jesus. This is done through regular reading of the Gospels – many use a daily reading app or some such system – and attending Mass regularly. Scripture without worship remains academic and will not always touch our heart. Worship without Scripture study can be like trying to survive on dessert without the meat and potatoes of life. With a regular diet of Scripture and worship, we will know the voice of Jesus and be able to follow our shepherd when he calls.
We also need to let the Good Shepherd take care of us. The prophet Ezekiel (Ez 34:16) says that God will shepherd by caring the for weak and sick, but will hobble those who fail to listen. This means that Jesus will help us in our need, but correct us in our error. We need to be ready for both. This is why many stop following Jesus; they don’t like to be corrected. Yet, this is part of the care we need if we are to follow Jesus into the Kingdom of Heaven. We cannot expect to be given only what we want. We need to accept even the challenges of the Gospel, and there are many. Every challenge of Jesus, such as, loving our enemies, or forgiving those who harm us, is meant to make us better. We must accept it all.
So, on this Good Shepherd Sunday, ask yourself, what kind of sheep am I? Do I accept the guidance of Jesus at all times, even above the other voices of this world? Do I really know Jesus’ voice because I listen regularly? Am I willing to be corrected even as I desire to be taken care of? Jesus wants every person to become a part of his flock, so we pray for ourselves and all of humanity this Sunday to listen and follow Jesus.
And now, I would like to offer the tri-part Easter Blessing:
The Lord be with you. R/. And with your spirit.
Bow down for the blessing.
May God, who by the Resurrection of his Only Begotten Son
was pleased to confer on you
the gift of redemption and of adoption,
give you gladness by his blessing. R/. Amen.
May he, by whose redeeming work
you have received the gift of everlasting freedom,
make you heirs to an eternal inheritance. R/. Amen.
And may you, who have already risen with Christ
in Baptism through faith,
by living in a right manner on this earth,
be united with him in the homeland of heaven. R/. Amen.
And may the blessing of almighty God,
the Father, and the Son, ✠ and the Holy Spirit,
come down on you and remain with you for ever. R/. Amen.