4th Sunday Of Easter-Year A.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“The Good Shepherd.”
When speaking of the ‘shepherd’ we are mainly reminded of his office as a guide or a leader; this is why the Fourth Sunday after Easter is also “Vocation Sunday”; a day of special prayer for those who are ‘shepherds’ in the Church. We should never forget however that there is only “One Shepherd”: Jesus. All others are just part of his flock. Today’s Gospel tells us that he calls us; those who belong to his flock can immediately recognize his voice. He is also the “Gate”: whoever wants to contact his sheep has to pass through him. The first and second readings are linked to this theme by showing us the way Jesus acted, a ‘Way’ that all those who have received baptism must follow and imitate.
“In the Old Testament the ‘New’ is hidden.
In the New Testament the ‘Old’ is laid open”.
Introductory Note before reading the Commentaries:
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of wisdom to understand the meaning of the messages that the Lord has for each one of us. These commentaries, which are prepared by various priests who have become scholars of the Scriptures, are provided as a brief guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings. Acts 2:14a, 36b-41. Just after the first followers of Christ experienced the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, Peter stood up and addressed the crowd that had gathered to find out what the excitement was all about. He boldly says, “Let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both ‘Lord and Messiah’, this Jesus whom you crucified.” On hearing these words, the gathered people “were cut to the heart.” They asked what is expected of them. Peter answers, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Like those first Jews who accepted baptism in response to Peter’s call, we too, have to separate ourselves from the ‘corrupt and dangerous generation’ that surrounds us. The world in which we live is a world that proclaims that religious faith isn’t really important, that self-satisfaction is the most important thing in life, and that expanding effort in pursuit of goodness and the well being of others is wasted time and effort. We must caution ourselves not to buy into the perverse attractions of deceit, selfishness and self-fulfilment. We must not allow ourselves to be charmed away from the path of the Lord. Beware; the corrupt generation is not tolerant of those who reject its offerings and ways. To start living a ‘true life’ that our Creator wanted for each one of us, we must repent and live by the ‘new life’ Christ offers. All of us must be willing to accept the ‘Truth’. After renouncing sin, we seek conversion; we want to change our whole way of thinking and our style of life. Truth, ‘cuts like any double-edged sword, but more finely’ (Heb 4:12); it penetrates into the innermost parts of the heart and reveals our frailties, wickedness and mistakes. At times we conveniently change this ‘double-edged sword’ into a kind of crutch to support our crookedness. Peter’s words should persuade us to adopt the only honest attitude: humble listening and willingness to change. Peter’s answer shows us the three stages of salvation: turning away from our old errors, baptism, and the Holy Spirit. Once we are joined to Christ and to the community of his followers through baptism our sins are forgiven and the Holy Spirit is given to us. The slate is wiped clean and ‘New Life’ is imparted. True life indeed! An ‘opportunity for salvation’ is given to us! We now need to trust in the grace of God. Psalm 23:1-6. The Psalm of the Good Shepherd gives confidence to those who obey Peter through repentance. They have chosen a shepherd of goodness and kindness. He is the one who guides along the right path, like Jesus in the Gospel. 1 Peter 2:20b-25. Peter now considers the case of the Christians who are slaves. Slaves, like Christians, undergo punishment. The pattern from which that kind of insight is derived is Jesus himself. Some of them, the lucky ones, might be owned by good and kind masters, while others may be owned by hard-hearted and difficult tyrants. Often they have to bear not only the injustices inflicted on them but also the taunts of their fellow slaves who sneer at those who endeavour to lead a life in accordance with their baptism. How should the persecuted ones behave; rebel or resort to violence? Peter answers by showing what Jesus did when he was treated unjustly. Did he teach that violence is to be met by violence, calumny-by-calumny, deceit-by-deceit? Did he urge to hate, to keep a grudge and resort to revenge? No because these are all old ways of reacting. The Christian is now called to introduce something never seen before: love for everybody unconditionally, even for one’s enemy. Violence may at times net some immediate results, but in the long run it will not only leave problems unsolved, but will create new and bigger ones. Whoever wants to build a new world founded on ‘justice, peace and love’ should adopt the means taught by Christ and never fall into temptation of making use of what Christ has explicitly rejected. John 10:1-10. In the Gospel Jesus explains his role as the ‘Risen One’ by way of a teaching. “I am the Gate,” and “whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” Thus there is only one sure way of “life” – the ‘Way’ of Jesus. All other ways will prove to be deceptive and short-lived. They may bring temporary distraction but certainly no lasting satisfaction. Jesus alone can give life to the full. Indeed, he himself is the ‘Way’ to a full life. In accepting him, and in giving ourselves wholly to him, we’ll reach the heights of ‘New Life’. Jesus has been revealing the Father since the very beginning (Jn 1:18; 6-29; 8:28-29). Through Jesus’ teaching and deeds, it became possible for those who desired it, to enter into a new type of relationship with each other, with him and ultimately with God. His disciples could, thanks to him, discover that they belong together in a fragile but real way. He was the agent of their unity. In this sense Jesus acts as a ‘Gate’. In and through his person, it becomes possible to enter physically and spiritually into a new family of brothers and sisters, who love and serve God and each other. Such faithful and selfless ministry is given only through the person of Jesus. When one has a true personal experience of the Risen Jesus, one feels called by Jesus to dedicate one’s life to the service of others, either in the Christian community or outside it. Christian service is for the good of all of the community and is never done in a spirit of competition (1 Cor 12:4-11). John will state the vital role of Jesus in the life of the disciple in the words: “I am the Way that is Truth and Life” (Jn 14:6) and in the image of the ‘Vine’ from which all branches receive their life (Jn 15). The call to serve will grow only from the experience of having surrendered one’s personal freedom to Jesus and enter into Jesus’ vision of life through his ‘Gate’ leading to life in abundance. The ‘Gate’ through which believers have access to this life is someone who sacrifices his/her very self. That is the difference between Jesus and the leaders who came before him. The shepherd’s
life was a dangerous one. Out on the desolate plain, there was no one to protect him from sheep-stealers; he was on his own, and sometimes had to fight to protect himself and his flock. That’s why Jesus once said, “the good shepherd gives his life for his sheep” (Jn 10:11b). At sundown the shepherd used to gather his sheep into an enclosure that had a narrow opening; then he would go to sleep lying down across that narrow space. That why Jesus calls himself the “gate for the sheep.” Anyone would have to get past him, and maybe kill him, to get at the sheep. Jesus is the “Good Shepherd”, and he actually laid down his life for us. Those who watch over his followers are called “pastors”, a Latin word meaning; “shepherd.” To be pastor in our Church means to always be on call, watchful and ready to serve and to work so that their people “might have life and have it more abundantly.” Like the prophets before him Jesus does not hesitate to brand selfish leaders as thieves. The True Shepherd wants life; the thieves and the brigands advocate death. The last verse of today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus came to bring life. He does not promise that this will be easy to achieve but he promises that he will give it in abundance. Does he mean life everlasting? No! He means first of all the life we are leading in this world. It is here on earth that Christians must endeavour to make it possible for everybody to lead a happy life and help the Spirit to develop the ‘Kingdom of God’. By doing so they will show that they are disciples of the ‘True Shepherd’, who has given up his life so that all may have life fully. When we accept the responsibility to minister to others we are giving a gift of ourselves, especially when there is no personal profit. This is only possible when we are nourished by the examples of Christ and lead others to God, the source of all life. Are we fruit of the ‘Vine’? There will always be need of voices to convey the message of the ‘Good Shepherd’. Jesus is the ‘Gate’ of the sheepfold, the only Saviour and Mediator between God and humanity. Questions people sometimes ask, “Isn’t one religion just as good as another? What is so special about Christianity? Are we convinced of Christ’s unique position and message? Are we totally committed to the need for full-time religious commitment and ministry?”
Where will tomorrow’s flock go without someone consecrated by Christ to lead them to the “Good Shepherd?”
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to guide us in the ‘Way’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 4th Sunday
of Easter Year A, we reflect on …
Mon… After hearing Peter’s address to the entire house of Israel that God had made Lord and Messiah the Jesus they had crucified, they were cut to the heart. We too today still drive those nails deeper into Jesus’ wounds when we cause pain and suffering and condemn unjustly our brothers and sisters. Jesus said, “What you did to the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did to me”!
Tue… The repentant crowd asked Peter what was expected of them. Peter answers, “Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and to receive the Holy Spirit”. We have been baptized and have repented, but have we truly turned away from our old errors and our value systems? We need to pray for God’s grace to truly start living the life the Father wishes us to live.
Wed… To start living the ‘true life’ that that the Father wants for us, we must repent and live by the new life that Christ offers. We must accept the Truth by actually living the Truth. Conversion to Christ’s Way is a lifetime journey with many obstacles along the path of righteousness. The path gets exceedingly narrower and more difficult to follow and in order to persevere; we need strength from prayer, love and charity, our faith and trust in the Gospel. Do we know and understand the guide that Jesus has given us in the Gospel? Thur… Christians are ‘called’ to love everybody unconditionally, even one’s enemy, just as Jesus did. As followers of Christ we are all called to build a new world founded on ‘justice, peace and love and reject all that Christ rejected in pursuit of our mission based on Truth and gratuitous Love for all. Can we fulfil this calling? Fri… Baptized Christians are ‘called’ to serve and dedicate one’s life to Christ and to the service of others. The call to serve will grow from the experience of having surrendered one’s personal freedom to Jesus and enter into his vision of ‘Life’ through his ‘Gate’ leading to life in abundance. We all need to serve as we all play a part in God’s plan of salvation. God is giving us an opportunity to be part of his plan. Do we accept his invitation to ‘New Life’? Sat… In accepting the responsibility to minister to others in whatever way may be necessary, we are giving a gift of ourselves not only to our brothers or sisters but also to Jesus. We can only lead others to God, the source of ‘True Life’ when we are nourished by the examples of the Risen Christ, the Good Shepherd, through his Spirit and in the Gospel. Sun… When we commit ourselves to serve Jesus in this lifetime we are committing ourselves to serve him in eternity. Jesus is the ‘Gate’ of the sheepfold, there is no other Way, and he is our Saviour and Mediator between God and humanity. Do we make this commitment today? The choice is ours.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, through Your Spirit of Truth, guide us through the ‘Gate’ of Your sheepfold where we may have a personal encounter with the ‘Good Shepherd’ and share in the ‘New Life’ of abundance. Help us to serve Jesus in the ‘Way’ You choose for us so that we may continue by Your grace and Your will to serve You forever in all eternity. This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives, and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen. Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale. “Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.