14. May, 2015Church News, Feature, Ladyewell News Comments Off

FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

R1. Acts 4:2-12//Ps 118:1 and 8-9. 21-23. 26 and 28-29

R2. 1John 3:1-2//Accl. John 10:14// Gosp. John 10:11-18

 

CHRIST THE GOOD SHEPHERD: REVELATION OF GOD’S INTIMACY WITH US

The Church celebrates today “The Good Shepherd Sunday”. It was celebrated on the second Sunday called Low Sunday before 1970. Then, the Church also prayed for increase in vocation to the Priesthood and Religious life. With the advent of the revelation of God’s mercy as revealed to St. Faustina Kolwaska in 1931, the Pontiff (St. John Paul II) approved of the second Sunday of Easter to be Divine Mercy Sunday; while “The Good Shepherd Sunday” was moved to the Fourth Sunday of Easter. This Sunday derives its name from the readings of the day, especially the gospel.

The fullness of God’s revelation is found in the person of Jesus Christ (Dei Verbum No. 4). With the lack of responsibility on the part of the shepherds of Israel, God promised to give them a shepherd after his own heart (cf. Jer 3:15) who would lovingly shepherd them. Going further later on, God calls himself the Shepherd of his people, Israel “I myself will be your shepherd” (Ez 34:15). From the gospel of today, we see this promise of God affirmed by Christ as fulfilled in him: “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11). He is the fulfilment of the Old Testament prefigurations. Note here that he uses the term “I AM”. This brings to bare his divinity as God as revealed to Moses in the burning bush: “Tell him that I AM has sent you” (See Ex 3:14). To make it clearer, Jesus does not use simile in describing himself. He never says: I am like the Good Shepherd, but I am the Good Shepherd. He is the shepherd who never leaves his flock untended.

Ordinarily, a shepherd has great courage and will always remain stationed with his flock in the face of threatening wolves. All this is done out of great love for the flock he guides. Unlike the detested Old Testament shepherds on whom Zechariah prophesied woes (cf. Zech 11:17), Jesus leads his flock from the bondage of sin to the pastureland of freedom of the children of God (cf. Rom 8:21; Jer 31:31). Jesus surpasses all others who came before him, for he lays down his life for his sheep (John 10:14). He came that they may have the fullness of life (John 10:10). A shepherd is one who never cares for his own comfort, but sacrifices his life for his flock. This is what makes Jesus’ nature of shepherd distinct as he affirmed (John 10:11). 

The excellence of his nature of shepherd is to be found in his self-immolation described in Heb 13:20. He is a Shepherd who loves, trusts and has a good knowledge of his flock and his flock know him. In this way, he shows us how much we his flock are united to him and the Blessed Trinity. What a revelation of divine intimacy! A shepherd who has no good knowledge of his flock will hardly love or trust his flock. In this way, one thing is definitely sure: he will exploit them rather than lead them to life and freedom. This is because he has not the interest of the flock, but his own selfish interest. Little wonder, then, Jean Vanier writes, “One can only guide someone if there is no desire to possess, control or manipulate the other; if mutual trust, respect and love have been born between the two” (Jean Vanier: Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John, 2004, p. 181). Christ is the Good Shepherd. He knows his flock, trusts them and gives his life for them.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. At his coming into this world and during his public ministry, the Jews rejected him as the Messiah despite all the works he did that bore witness to his identity as the “I AM” (cf. John 10:25); and God has approved him leader and guide of his people (cf. Is 55:4). This is the fact Peter in the first reading makes clear to the “builders” – elders of Israel, that Christ is the cornerstone rejected by men (Acts 4:8-12). In this way, Peter explains the depth of Christ’s love for his flock – the Church and her members – the Children of God, as seen in the second reading (1John 3:1-3).  This is the climax of laying down his life for his sheep. To be a good shepherd, one has to come out of his shell of selfishness. In this way, “one reveals to the sheep their fundamental beauty and value” (Jean Vanier: Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John, 2004, p. 189); and the value of life in general.

The height of Christ’s act of shepherding is found in his laying down his life in order to take it up again (cf. John 10:17). This is imperative for those who follow Christ. The Christian is not to be afraid of laying down his/her life. This is the fact John points to in the second reading about the gift of life God gives us. Since we are light to the world (cf. Matt 5:14), we must burn bright for the world to see. We have to shine out to the world to illumine its darkness. A candle is not dimmed for giving its light to light other candles. The life God has given us does not end in death. In fact, death marks the beginning of a new life. This is what Christ did for us; and as our Shepherd, he bids us listen to his voice.

May the Lord bless his words in our hearts. Peace be with you.