4th Sunday of Easter and Good Shepherd Sunday - April 21, 2024

4th Sunday of Easter and Good Shepherd Sunday - April 21, 2024

Acts 4:8-12; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18

 

Theme: “I am the Good Shepherd”

Our Gospel passage today comes from the “Good Shepherd” discourse (John 10:1-21) in the Gospel according to John. The context of this discourse is found in the story of the healing of the man born blind on a Sabbath (John 9:1-41), which comes immediately before the discourse of the “Good Shepherd.” The Pharisees did not believe that the man healed by Jesus was born blind. They did not want the crowd to know that this man was born blind because his healing would make the people believe in Jesus as the true Messiah. They tried to force the man’s parents to testify that their son was not born blind and the blind man to say publicly that Jesus was a sinner. The parents confirmed that the blindness of their son was from birth, but they did not give further details because they were afraid to be excommunicated by the Pharisees. They excommunicated this blind man because he did not testify that Jesus was a sinner. Jesus came to meet with him after being excommunicated. The man professed his faith in Jesus and worshiped him. This story ended with Jesus saying that he had come into the world for judgment so that those who do not see might see, and those who see might become blind. Some Pharisees who heard him refused to admit they were spiritually blind. Jesus told them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.” (John 9:41.)

After this episode of the healing of the man born blind comes the discourse of the “Good Shepherd.” It continues the theme of Jesus addressing the Pharisees' spiritual blindness that ends John 9. Its form is symbolic. The lectionary omitted vv. 1-10 and 19-21.

It is necessary to analyze vv. 1-10 to comprehend our text better. Jesus commences by addressing the difference between the Pharisees, whom he identifies as the thieves and robbers, and himself, the Good Shepherd and Gatekeeper of the sheep. The sheep represent the people of God, symbolized by the blind man. The thief and robber (the Pharisees) do not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climb over elsewhere (v. 1). The sheep do not follow and listen to them because they do not recognize their voices (vv. 5, 8). Their mission is to steal, slaughter, and destroy (v. 10a) This alludes to when the Pharisees forced the blind man to bear false testimony against Jesus, saying that Jesus was a sinner, but the blind man refused to obey them (see 9: 24-34.) Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He does not climb elsewhere but enters through the gate. He calls each sheep by name, and they hear his voice. He leads them out and walks ahead; they recognize and follow him. Jesus is also the Gatekeeper. He lets the sheep enter and go out through him safely (vv. 7, 9). This refers to how the blind man listened and believed in Jesus (see 9:7, 35-38). Here, Jesus taught the Pharisees that they had failed to believe in him, but God’s people, symbolized by the blind man, believed in him.

Our Gospel passage picks up from v. 11 and ends in v. 18. Here, Jesus continues to develop his theme of “Good Shepherd” with other details. These details include laying down his life for the sheep, knowing his sheep and his sheep knowing him, and his mission of bringing other sheep from another fold to make just one flock, one Shepherd.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. “Laying down his life” alludes to Jesus’ death on the cross for the salvation of God’s people. Unlike the hired man (who stands for the Pharisees) who leaves the sheep and runs away when he sees a wolf coming, Jesus accepts to die on our behalf because he has a great love for us. This detail joins what Peter says in our first reading and teaches us that Jesus is our savior. People in Peter’s day revered their emperor as “savior” and “god” as they were told that salvation was attributed to the emperor. In our first reading passage, Peter clarified, "There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” (Acts 4: 12, NABRE.)  We have eternal life through Jesus alone, our good Shepherd, who laid his life on the cross for us. We, too, as his followers, let us be the “Good Shepherds” for one another. We all, parents, children, schoolteachers, nurses, laity, and ordained ministers, are called to “lay down our lives” for the people God put in our ways so that they might be spiritually, physically, intellectually, morally, and psychologically healthy. We can do this only when we consider our works (jobs) and ministries as apostolate even though we get paid (vv. 12-13). This means we should do them with great love.  

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep, and his sheep know him. Jesus knows each of us personally. We, as his “sheep,” which means “God’s people,” are called also to get to know him personally. Notice that he compares the knowledge between him and us to the knowledge between him and God. “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine, and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” (vv. 14-15a). Jesus and his Father God are One. They know each other perfectly. He wants to establish This kind of relationship between him and us. To come to know Jesus, we need to observe some spiritual practices. First, prayer, especially the Eucharistic celebration, is the best resource to come to know Jesus. At Mass, we become one with Jesus in the way he is One with his Father as we listen to him through the Scripture readings and homilies and receive his Body and Blood in the Holy Communion. Second, to know Jesus, we should become familiar with reading the Bible. God created us and instilled in us the desire to know him. He then inspired the human authors of the Bible to write down what he wanted his people to know about him. The Bible is God’s self-revelation. Therefore, the more we read the Bible, the more we know who God is. Our Holy Mother Church encourages us to attend Bible Study programs to become familiar with reading the Bible. I teach one, the Liturgical Weekly Bible Study, every Friday at 6: 00 p.m. USA central time in person and virtually via Zoom (Meeting ID: 836 4516 5259. Password: Bible. Or email me to ussbiblicalapostolate@gmail.com). Third, we also know Jesus when we help and serve our brothers and sisters, especially the poor and marginalized. Jesus said one day, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40, NABRE.) This part of the Gospel teaches us that we are Jesus’ sheep, so we should know him personally as he knows each of us.

  Jesus is the Good Shepherd who brings other sheep from another fold to make just one flock, one Shepherd (v. 16). Jesus does not limit his mission to the chosen people but extends it to non-Jews. The “other sheep from another fold” allude to the Gentiles and sinners of Mark’s time. In our time, too, we have the “other sheep from another fold” who still need to hear Jesus’ voice. Today, we celebrate the Sunday of vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Our Holy Mother Church reminds us that she needs men and women to respond to God’s call to become priests, religious brothers and sisters, and deacons to continue Jesus’ mission of bringing “other sheep from another fold” to listen to Jesus’ voice. Priests, parents, schoolteachers, and catechists should help and accompany young men and women to discern their vocations to the priesthood and religious lives.  

May the liturgy of this Mass enable us to become the sheep who hear the voice of Jesus, our Good Shepherd, know him, and follow him wherever he leads us. We pray also that this Mass might transform us into “good shepherds” capable of sacrificing ourselves for the salvation of our brothers and sisters. Amen.

Rev. Leon Ngandu, SVD

 

 

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