4th Sunday of Easter (22 April 2018)
Acts 4:8-12; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18
This week, the readings teach us about the special love and bond inherent in the relationship between God and His people. The Gospel writer uses the analogy of the bond between sheep and shepherd; in the second reading, it is Father and child; and in the first reading it is God who empowers us and makes us whole. Indeed we are blessed.
In the first reading, the Apostles were confronted by the anger of the priests and the Sadducees who were upset by the boldness with which they were proclaiming the glory and power of the Man who had been crucified just a few weeks earlier. Peter, who when Jesus was still alive in this world, had denied Him three times during His night of greatest despair, now loudly proclaimed his faithfulness to the Christ. Peter’s message was clear: God the Father had raised from the dead the Man that the priests had arranged to be crucified and by His name alone was Peter able to perform the dramatic miracles that they were all witnessing. Peter was saying that Jesus whom they had seen die on the Cross was alive; and more than that, He was active in their midst doing things that were simply not possible to be done by a human. Peter described Jesus as the keystone, which is a central stone at the summit of an arch that holds the whole structure together. Indeed, without Jesus, our lives have no meaning, for without Him, we are all condemned in our sins to die without ever coming into life with God.
John, in the second reading develops this by making three specific points. First, God loves us so much that He allows us to be called His children. This is an affirmation of the intense and intimate relationship that God intends for us. Second, because the world rejected Jesus and refuses to acknowledge His Kingship, we can expect that it will reject us. Hence it is vital that we keep our minds firmly directed towards Heaven and our eternal destiny with God. Finally, we are already the children of God and must act as such, though there is so much more to come when God reveals Himself to us in time.
The Gospel gives us yet another vital perspective on the nature of God’s love for us. John here uses the analogy of the sheep and the Good Shepherd. In the modern age, this analogy may seem remote. The picture of sheep is apt because without their shepherd, sheep are capable of harming themselves, of wandering off and getting lost and left to themselves, of destroying their pasture. They were also easily frightened. Yet the sheep were extremely valuable to the shepherds who would go to great lengths to look after their sheep, protect them, tend to their wounds and provide everything that they ever needed. The analogy is especially rich because when the sheep were laid in a common pen with those belonging to other shepherds and the shepherd called, his own sheep would recognize his call and come to him. Jesus is the Good Shepherd because He is the source of every blessing including life and He lay down His life for us of His own accord.
Thus God was in control throughout the Resurrection and His choice in taking the Cross is the greatest affirmation of His love for us. God’s love for us is complete and selfless. When we respond to His call, we come to some understanding of it and are transformed by the wonder of how much we are loved.
Some points for reflection as you read the passages:
- What was the source of Peter’s courage in testifying about Jesus? Why does Peter say that Jesus is the keystone? To what extent is Jesus the keystone of your life?
- Do you think of yourself as a child of God? How could seeing yourself as a child of God affect the choices you make in your life? Do others see you as a child of God?
- How is the hired man different from the shepherd? What are the false gods that hold our attention but fail to deliver us? Do you know the Good Shepherd’s voice?