The Shepherd Knows His Sheep

April 18, 2018 - 10:58am
Sheep
Scripture Reflections for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Imagine an ant colony.

The ants decide that they need to build a new hill and choose to do so at the busiest intersection downtown. You deeply love your ants, and so you try to instruct them that this is not a good idea, but as you get close to talk to them, they scurry away in a frenzy and then go back to gathering supplies to build their ant hill at the intersection. You think to yourself, “What must I do in order to get across to these ants that if they build at this intersection, they will die? How can I save them?” And then it dawns on you—you must become an ant. This is the only way they will listen to you without fear. You become an ant and work to lead them away from the busy intersection. Some follow you, others can’t stand you and choose to put you to death.

As silly as this little story may sound, it helps show the radical love that Christ has for us. He needed to reach us, to come in a way that we would recognize him and hear his voice, and so God made himself a mere human. What amazing love Our Lord has for us! Let us spend some time together today reflecting on this love as we read of it in the first two readings and then as we hear of Christ as our good shepherd, keeping us safe from harm.

(Analogy idea from Billy Graham)

 

First Reading Reflection

Acts 4:8-12

Peter and John are arrested after the lame man is healed in the Temple area and Peter speaks to the crowd. Today’s reading highlights Peter’s response to the authorities who ask him by what power he has affected this healing. Jesus promises that there is no need to worry about their testimony when they are arrested because the words will be provided to them (cf. Mark 13:11; Matthew 10:19; Luke 12:12), and this promise is fulfilled when Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit and proceeds to tell the Sanhedrin that it is by the power of the Risen Christ working through him that the man has been healed. Peter proclaims the Resurrection and that all salvation comes through Jesus Christ, the cornerstone rejected by them. Peter uses Jesus’s own metaphor from Psalms 118:22 by which Jesus had referred to himself as the “stone the builders rejected” that “has become the cornerstone,” the stone that holds the structure in place. Jesus who has been rejected by his own is now proclaimed as Savior of all.

When our Faith is challenged, we too can rely on the Holy Spirit to boldly proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ as the Risen Savior of the world. We have a duty to speak out when silence would imply denial, cause offense to God or scandal to others, or show disrespect for our Faith. We need to examine our faith for any weakness and trust in the name of Jesus by which mighty deeds are accomplished.

 

Second Reading Reflection

1 John 3:1−2

 

As Christians, we experience God’s loving goodness by becoming children of God through our Baptism into the household of God. By the grace of divine generation through water  and the Spirit, which is received by faith at our Baptism, we become sons and daughters of the Father and recipients of his love and protection. Therefore, we no longer belong to this world, and so the world rejects us as it does Jesus.

We are called to lead holy lives in imitation of Christ, and we can be confident of an even greater salvation in the future. The glory that awaits us at our salvation is a clear vision of Christ, to see him as he truly is. So, we live in the tension of the “already” but “not yet” where we can enjoy life as children of light sharing in his divine nature but not yet fully transformed into Christ.

 

Gospel Reflection

John 10:11-18

 

In this passage, Jesus uses the analogy of a shepherd to characterize his deep love and concern for the people as opposed to the Pharisees who are more concerned with the Law. Jesus has just given sight to a man blind from birth and who the Pharisees subsequently persecute shamefully. With the claim “I am the Good Shepherd,” Jesus evokes the words that God spoke from the burning bush to Moses in Exodus 3:14 and thereby asserts his spiritual authority. He then proves his care and concern for the people by his readiness to lay down his life for them not merely by risking it. In contrast, the Pharisees show no true concern for the people; they are like hired hands who quit their post at the first sign of trouble.

Jesus’s flock is not limited to the chosen ones of Israel. Jesus is ready to lay down his life for anyone who will accept his sacrificial offering on the Cross, even the Gentiles and all of us today. We have assurance that we are called to be part of his flock since we know that God “wills everyone to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). However, like the Jews, we also must hear Jesus’s call and be willing to respond.

As the Good Shepherd, Jesus desires an intimate relationship with his sheep, modelled after the relationship that he has with the Father. Although Jesus has authority, there is an inter-dependence based on love and obedience. Jesus hears and freely responds to the command of the Father to lay down his life and to pick it up again. We too are called to hear his voice and respond in obedience to the great love that he shows us in laying down his life for us.

 

Discussion

 

Watch the short Opening the Word video at StMichael.FORMED.org.

In the Second Reading today, John tells us, “The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” Do you feel “different” or possibly even estranged to the world around you? How does living as a child of God set you apart from the world? How can we live as children of God, apart from the world, but allow this difference  to be a light for other people?

When reading today’s Gospel, we hear the phrase “good shepherd” several times. What do you think of when you think of “shepherd”? What does good shepherd mean to you? Why do you think Jesus chose to use this image?

 

Digging Deeper: Incarnation

In the word “Incarnation,” we see two parts, “in” and “carne,” which literally mean “in the flesh.”

Christ become incarnate is the most radical act of love the universe could experience. And beyond this, God desires to share this love with us so deeply that he allows us to experience each Sunday at Mass when the priest consecrates the bread and wine to be the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. After receiving Communion at Mass this Sunday, take some time to thank God for his tremendous, self- giving love.

 

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