Fourth Sunday of Easter by Father Peter Chinnappan
Easter IV Sunday (May 12/19) Acts 13:14, 43-52; Rv 7:9, 14b-17; Jn 10:27-30
Introduction: The fourth Sunday of Easter, known as Good Shepherd Sunday, is also the “World Day of Prayer for Vocations.” The Scripture lessons for this day concern the role of the shepherds of God’s flock in the Church. Each year on this Sunday, we reflect on the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd who devotedly and kindly takes care of his flock. The title “pastor” means shepherd. A shepherd leads, feeds, nurtures, comforts, corrects, and protects his flock—responsibilities that belong to every Church leader. The earliest Christians saw Jesus as the fulfillment of the ancient Jewish dream of the Good Shepherd who also wished to include the Gentiles as part of God’s flock.
Scripture lessons summarized: Today’s first reading describes how Paul and Barnabas opted to listen to the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd and follow him, and how, like their Master, they were rebuffed and rejected when they tried to share the good news of salvation. It also suggests that the sympathy of the early Christians for the Gentiles caused a rupture with Judaism. The second reading, taken from the book of Revelation, depicts Jesus as both the glorified Lamb and the Shepherd. John’s vision encourages his readers with the assurance that every person who has ever followed Christ and led others to him will share everlasting life with him. The Gospel text offers us both comfort and great challenge. The comforting message is that no one can snatch the sheep out of his Father’s hands. The challenge is that pastors and lay people alike should be good shepherds to those entrusted to their care.
“LEAD, FOLLOW OR GET OUT OF THE WAY.” On a recent highway trip, one bumper sticker grabbed my eye and caused me to consider its frank command: “LEAD, FOLLOW OR GET OUT OF THE WAY.” In a sense, the Scripture readings for today, Good Shepherd Sunday, proffer the same challenge to believers. Christianity admits of no mediocrity; the decision of Faith which discipleship demands requires a daily deliberateness and a constantly renewed certainty. Either Jesus and his way of life are accepted and followed, or they are rejected. There is no middle path; to live otherwise is to become an obstacle in the way of others. As Christians, each of us is called to be both a leader and a follower. Ultimately, as John points out in the Gospel, our leader is Jesus, the loving shepherd who calls us away from sin and self to union with him and one another. (Sanchez Files)
Life Messages: Let us become good shepherds and good sheep, good leaders and good followers.
(1) Let us become good shepherds: Everyone who is entrusted with the care of others is a shepherd. Hence pastors, parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, government officials, etc. are all shepherds. We become good shepherds by loving those entrusted to us, praying for them, spending our time and talents for their welfare, and guarding them from physical and spiritual dangers.
(2) Let us be good sheep in the fold of Jesus, the Good Shepherd: Our local parish is our sheepfold, and our pastors are our shepherds. Hence, as the good sheep of the parish, parishioners are expected to
a) hear and follow the voice of their shepherds through their homilies, Bible classes, counseling and advice;
b)receive the spiritual food their pastors provide by regular participation in the Holy Mass, by frequenting the Sacraments and by attending prayer services, renewal programs and missions;
c) cooperate with their pastors by giving them positive suggestions for the welfare of the parish, by encouraging them in their duties, by lovingly offering them constructive criticism when they are found misbehaving or failing in their duties and by praying for them; and
d) cooperate in the activities of various councils, ministries and parish associations.
(3) Let us pray for vocations to priestly and religious life so that we may have more good shepherds to lead, feed and protect the Catholic community.