April 26, 2015 – Fourth Sunday of Easter
“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Our Gospel passage on this Fourth Sunday of Easter begins with those words from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is a question of perspective and attitude. Jesus also reminds us that other shepherds may think the flock exists for them, but for Jesus, He lives and dies for the sheep — for us.
As our Easter season continues, we are prompted over and over to keep in mind what the Lord sacrificed for us. Our readings are meant to keep His redemption at the forefront of our thoughts. St. Peter’s words, as he preached in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, echo this central theme. “He (Jesus) is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the corner stone. There is no salvation through anyone else.” Peter’s message to us is absolutely unambiguous: there is only one way to deliverance and that is by means of the Lord. St. Peter made this speech in a court; he is filled with courage through the Holy Spirit, and what he says is consistent with all his preaching as reported: Peter preaches Jesus, the crucified Jesus. This speech is as much for us as it was for those witnessing it.
In our second reading from the First Letter of John, St. John uses the phrase “children of God.” This is a superlative transitional phrase to the Good Shepherd in the Gospel. This phrase demands a relationship from us beyond what is immediately apparent. It has to do with how we relate to our Father God. However, it also has to do with how we interact with our siblings. Stewardship calls us to more than just loving. It demands that we reach out, that we share, and that we love in action all those with whom we know and meet. As the “children of God” we become the family of God. John closes this passage of his letter saying “…we shall see him (Christ) as he is.” This is the glorious promise made to us. We will not only be with Jesus; we will be like Him. That is the deepest meaning of our salvation, and we need to concentrate on that.
This Sunday is traditionally called Good Shepherd Sunday. Each year, regardless the cycle for the readings, we hear about Jesus, the Good Shepherd. It is interesting to note that the Greek word for “shepherd” was the same word for “pastor.” Jesus is the Good Shepherd, but our lives may well be filled with many “shepherds,” many who will truly sacrifice all for us. That is why in many parts of the world this Sunday also contains a heavy element relating to vocations. Jesus’ love for us as reflected by the image of the Good Shepherd calls us to try to be a shepherd to our friends, our family, all with whom we may come in contact. That, too, is stewardship. Going back to the theme of Resurrection and life Jesus states, “I lay down my life in order to take it up again… I have the power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.”
At the very end of his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis says, “Keep back nothing. Nothing you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, everything else thrown in.”