Fourth Sunday of Easter: Good Shepherd Sunday

May 01, 2020

Fourth Sunday of Easter: Good Shepherd Sunday

Fourth Sunday of Easter
3 May 2020 • Albert McGetterick, C.Ss.R.

Celebrant’s Guide

Introduction to the Mass

Today is often known as Good Shepherd Sunday because we take our Gospel from the Good Shepherd chapter of the Gospel of John. It is also a day of prayer for vocations for the priesthood and religious life. Let us remember today all those who serve us in imitation of Christ the Good Shepherd – our Holy Father, Pope Francis, our bishop, clergy and the religious who minister in our diocese and parish.

Penitential Rite

Lord Jesus, you are the Good Shepherd, leading us to eternal life. Lord, have mercy.

You come in word and sacrament to strengthen us as your witnesses today. Christ, have mercy.

You pour out the Spirit on your Church so that it can to be a light to the nations. Lord, have mercy.

Headings for Readings

First Reading • (Acts 2:14-40). Having received the Spirit, Peter and the other apostles call on the people to repent and be baptised.

Second Reading • (1 Pet 2:20-25). Peter challenges his readers to bear punishment with patience, in imitation of Jesus, even when it seems unfair.

Gospel • (Jn 10:1-10). Jesus reveals himself as the Gate through which the disciples go out to find pasture, which also protects them from danger.

Prayer of the Faithful

President • Dear friends, as we gather in the name of Christ the Good Shepherd, we remember in our prayer all our brothers and sisters who belong to the flock of Christ.

Readers • For those who shepherd the flock of Christ. For Francis, our Pope, the Vicar of Christ the Good Shepherd, for our bishop and for the priests of this parish. May they nurture the people entrusted to them with the Word and the Sacraments.

For our brothers and sisters of other Churches who are not in communion with the Church of Rome, and for their shepherds. As members of Christ’s flock, may they be strengthened in faith and in the service of their brothers and sisters.

For candidates preparing for ordination as deacons and priests or for profession as religious. May they be inspired by Christ the Good Shepherd to live lives that are generous and joyful.

For young people preparing for examinations at this time and for those who are considering how to spend their lives. May they be generous in responding to wherever God may lead them.

For the dead of our community [especially ...]. May the Good Shepherd lead them by quiet waters to the pastures of eternal life.

President • Father, grant the desires of those who pray to you and hear the prayers of those who believe in you, and guide us all along the right path. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord

Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer

As we await the coming of the Kingdom, we pray in the words Christ the Good Shepherd has taught us.

Invitation to the Sign of Peace

Christ the Good Shepherd has laid down his life that we might find peace with God. Let us offer each other the sign of peace.

Invitation to Holy Communion

Christ is the Gate through whom his flock go in and out and find pasture. May we receive in faith today the living Bread, the gift of the Good Shepherd.

Communion Reflection

Lord Jesus, you are the door of your sheep. You offer us protection against those who come to steal, kill and destroy. You have come so that we may have life and have it more abundantly! Through you may we find the way to the stream of living water and to the table of eternal life. On this Good Shepherd Sunday we praise and thank you for all your gifts.

Commentary and Reflections

Commentary

First Reading • (Acts 2:14-40). Luke tells in the Gospel how Jesus, after he had received the Spirit at baptism, began his ministry by proclaiming himself Messiah at Nazareth. Now, Peter, having also received the Spirit, proclaims that the promises for the last times now have been fulfilled. Luke´s message emphasizes the power and efficacy of the Spirit poured out on the apostles and the church.

The whole scene can be divided into three parts: (a) 14-21 explanation of the speaking in tongues; (b) 22-36 proclamation of salvation in the risen of Christ; (c) 38 call to repentance.

The call to repentance which is the invariable conclusion of the apostolic sermons is to awaken in the hearers a sense of guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus (or in the case of pagans, for idolatry) and to awaken in them the need for Christ.

God has made Jesus Messiah – In God´s plan it was the resurrection of Jesus which established him as saviour and redeemer and preceded his entrance into his full glory.

Baptised in the name of Jesus – Baptism in the name of Jesus to distinguish it from other baptisms current at the time like that of John and of the Jewish proselytes. Baptism in Christ´s name causes us to be incorporated into his life (Gal 3:27), receiving the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit.

For all who are far away – Luke refers here to the gentiles (Acts 22:21 ; Eph 2:13), emphasizing that Baptism is for all. Luke´s message is above all a message of salvation to the gentiles. See Luke 2:32. and its completion in Acts 28:28. Simeon had seen in Jesus ‘a light for revelation to the gentiles’ (Lk 2:32) and Paul´s last words to the Roman Jews are: ‘Let it be known to you then that the salvation of God has been sent to the gentiles: They will listen!’ (Acts 28:28).

Responsorial Psalm • (Ps 23). The shepherd and guardian of our souls is the Lord. All that we desire, and much more besides, is given to us when we trust in him.

Second Reading • (1 Pet 2:20-25). Verses 21b-25 are a hymn to Christ with, in the final part, an allusion to the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah regarding God´s servant (Isa 52:13–53:12) and also to the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11-16; 21:15-19). Also we can see an allusion to Ezekiel 34:16 where it is God himself who comes to pasture the sheep.

This is a passage directed principally at slaves. Peter directs them to remember that Christ too suffered for doing his duty. By imitating Christ´s forbearance and patience in response to his harsh and cruel treatment slaves can sanctify themselves in the harsh situation in which they find themselves. Although such passivity doesn´t sit well today in situations of oppression, this was probably the only practical attitude at the time for the tiny Christian community in a world which took slavery for granted.

Gospel • (Jn 10:1-10). The image of the Good Shepherd is one of the most ancient, enduring and endearing images of Jesus. It has its roots in the First Testament (Ezek 34:11). It is also the basis for one of the most beloved psalms – Psalm 23. In biblical times sheep were important, providing both food and clothing.

Today’s passage is part of Jesus’ response to the reaction to his healing of the man born blind (9:1-41). In 10:1, Jesus begins to interpret the meaning of the cure and in the following verses he introduces the imagery that will be the basis of his further comments in this section: shepherd, sheep, thieves and brigands, gatekeepers, strangers and the gate itself.

Jesus talks about the difference between the shepherd who enters by the gate and the thief who enters illegally. He talks about the intimate relation between the sheep and their shepherd, about how each one is called by his name and led to the rich pastures, as they follow the voice of him they recognize will lead them to food and security (v. 10).

Verse 6 is a brief interruption in the flow, to note the lack of understanding of the audience, which includes the Pharisees, the disciples and even the blind man.

Verses 7-10 focus on the image of Jesus as gate or door. The image of the door reminds us of the concept of inside and outside first developed in chapter 9 with the blind man being thrown out (9:34), and then repeated in the sheep pen of 10:1-5.

The thieves and brigands and strangers are contrasted with Jesus. Salvation (10:9) is linked to the promise of pasture and protection (in and out of the sheep pen). The man born blind, has followed Jesus’ voice even before being able to see him. Through his trust in Jesus his sight has been restored and he has been brought back to the security of his community. Now readmitted to the community through Jesus’ healing power he will know protection and a dignified life. And Jesus the good shepherd extends that protection and dignity to all his followers. It is by and through Jesus that we can all have life in its fullness (10:10).

The Pharisees who have made life so difficult for the blind man, are supposed to be the shepherds of Israel, caring for the well-being of the people. Instead, they expel the blind man from the community. They do not accept that Jesus and his actions stem from God. Instead they jealously guard their power and use it to serve themselves and not the people.

Reflections towards a Homily

Our world today has its fair share of thieves and brigands who seek to maim, kill and destroy. The existence of a group like Isis, for example, shows just how much our world is contaminated by evil and destructive ideologies. But sadly, our own politics and social life in Europe has been influenced by tendencies to demonize what is different and especially the stranger and the refugee.

Examples of exploitation also abound, sadly, in the religious field, where certain religious leaders put themselves forward as pastors with well-toned emotional appeals to people´s good will and generosity. As a result, often the pockets of such preachers are well lined while the unfortunate sheep end up hungry. These and other kind of wolves in sheep´s clothing are a constant source of danger to the flock.

In contrast to all this, Jesus speaks of himself as the good shepherd, who lays down his life for his sheep. He does this so that his sheep may have life and have it in abundance.

All of us are called to be sources of life to one another not only the official pastors of the Church. Devoted mothers and fathers, teachers, health care and social workers, prison workers, sanitary workers, kitchen and service staff in so many of our institutions and restaurants, the list is endless. All are invited to embody the care and concern of the good shepherd for those they interact with or serve.

Our world today also provides endless examples of those who lay down their lives for others. Climate activists in Latin America and other places who have been killed for taking a stand against the predatory interests of big business, in the Amazon forest and other places. LBGT activists who have defended with their lives the interests and the dignity of minority groups in countries with violent authoritarian regimes. Advocates for peace and justice who constantly place themselves in danger, in their commitment to basic human values. Members of voluntary bodies who give so generously of their time and efforts, so that others can feel a little less excluded from our society. This list is also endless. Some work, strongly guided by religious motivation, others by different inspiring ideals, but it is hard not to see in all, the embodiment of that concern and compassion, of he who said that he had come so that they may have life and have it abundantly, and who laid down his life for his sheep.

On this Good Shepherd Sunday we give thanks for all who in daily life are living signals of his love and we ask that all of us may also strive to embody in all we do something of his great compassion and care for his flock.

 




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