4th Sunday of Easter ~ 30 April 2023 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Responsorial: Psalm 23; II: I Peter 2: 20B – 25; Gospel: John 10: 1-10
This fourth Sunday of Easter we read again the message of The Lord, our shepherd. The importance of this is indicated by the frequency it is shared in both the Old Testament and New as well as in our liturgies. And framed within the season and context of our Easter celebrations it is given a very powerful and relevant emphasis. Jesus Christ, Lord, Savior, and Shepherd calls for us, by name. In his incarnation, Jesus came seeking, calling for his lost sheep, for us. From the cross, when he cried, “Forgive them, they know not what they do”, he calls us to his mercy. In his death, he called to all who were awaiting his grace. And risen from the dead he calls us all to follow him to life, abundant and eternal.
But what does that mean? How do we learn to listen, hear and heed the call of Jesus, the Shepherd of our souls? The Gospel today again affirms the essential need for our relationship with God. Our experience and knowledge of the faith, Sacramental graces, and Scriptures are all excellent. But they have little meaning if that knowledge has not resulted in a personal and living relationship with God. This is at the heart of today’s Scripture. We need to know Jesus calls us by name. He calls us to life, abundant and eternal. Christ calls us to follow him.
Called by name: The Easter story tells of Mary coming to the tomb to tend to the body of Jesus. At first, she does not see him. After Peter and John’s arrival, she stays and sees a man she thinks is a gardener. She still knows not that it is Jesus. But when Christ calls her by name, she knows. It is as we trust and learn of Jesus we learn that he knows us as no other can. When Jesus calls us, he knows whom it is he is calling. Our Shepherd knows us intimately, deeply, good and bad. As the Psalmist reminds us before He knit us in the womb, He knew us. [Psalm 139: 13-18]. Christ can see beyond our sins, failures, and fears to become that person He created and redeemed. It is as we learn and heed the Shepherd’s call we also grow beyond who we think we are to that child of God. Cephas became Peter, and Saul of Tarsus became Paul. And whether we actually experience a change of name when Jesus calls, and we heed, we grow into our real identity. As we listen, we learn who we are and grow in the life to which our Shepherd leads us.
Called to life, abundant and eternal: Sheep learn. Not always quickly or easily but we learn. We learn the voice of Jesus. We learn that where he leads is good, blessed, and safe, even in the midst of trials. And there may be things our Good Shepherd brings us to unlearn. Sadly, sometimes we Christians have an attitude that God’s ways are dead ends, hopeless. We may get stuck in our faith.
We do well to remember Jesus calls us to Life! This includes God’s peace. As He repeated over and over to his disciples, Peace! As Christians, we must learn that when God is truly leading Jesus will lead us with his peace, regardless of outward conflicts or circumstances. St. Paul, who well learned to follow Christ knew what it was to “Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart”, [Col. 3: 15]. This life to which we are called is also infused with the love Who is and of God, by which our fears are conquered [I John 4:18]. And it is in the ways of our Shepherd, ways of God’s peace, infused with His love best realized at the Cross, we journey to and in the Truth that is Jesus. And it is as the sheep heed His voice, hear their name and follow his footprints we grow in the Truth that is Christ and in the freedom God alone can bring. Many more blessings and graces are experienced by those following the Good Shepherd. But these three, Peace, Love, and Truth especially bring us to realize the life, abundant and eternal to which we are called.
Called to follow: Jesus calls to lead us in and to abundant life. Jesus calls us. To follow. After his resurrection, our Lord challenged his disciples to continue to follow him. This would be a daily choice they (and we ) are called to make. They (and we) must determine who, or what will shepherd our lives. Many are the choices we face. Fear, doubt, unforgiveness, anger, and worry are powerful false shepherds. Lust, greed, and pride also offer many promises of gratification if only we heed their siren’s call. But as we choose Jesus and learn His voice’s power and beauty, we seek to follow our Good Shepherd. A very simple yet powerful way to grow in our knowledge and experience of Jesus, our Shepherd is to take a very familiar Psalm, the twenty-third, as our Sheep’s Creed. Prayerfully read, affirm, and say this, out loud. Let it become our Sheep’s Creed in our Good Shepherd.
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