April 25, 2021
Fourth Sunday of Easter
In John 10: 11-18, we listen to Jesus say, “I am the good shepherd.” On the Fourth Sundays of Easter in every liturgical cycle, the images of Jesus as Shepherd or Gatekeeper are proclaimed in the Mass. This weekend is so often used as a time to speak about our vocations of priesthood and service in the Easter Season. Jesus, a guide, reveals to us our longing to remain in his love, in the hope that our lives will secure the Kingdom while we are still on earth.
These images of Jesus within the Easter Season reveal to us that Jesus leads us with tenderness. He invites, not shuns. He gathers, not separates. He loves, not detests. He encourages, not divides. He harmonizes, not condemns. These images of shepherd are foreign to many of us. We certainly are not dumb animals. These ancient images try to get at an action of Jesus to gather his people into unity and harmony. We belong to him. He desires us.
So often this image eludes us. We may dismiss this image as pietistic and old fashioned. However, for me this yearly Fourth Sunday of Easter, reveals the tenderness of God, the hope that we shall one day be one in Him. If we listen careful to the Shepherd, we will first understand that we are welcome within his life. In Easter, we celebrate the redemption of people. Yes, we belong in his presence.
The shepherd lays down his life for the flock. Being a shepherd is hard work, it is not the cozy, fluffy image of a clean sheep on the shoulders of Jesus perfectly clean. Caring for the sheep is dirty, difficult exertion. He cares for us which is no easy task either. He claims us as we are, he runs to carry us away from harm and hopelessness. We do not earn such care, for he offers us this warmth without cost. We can get into some pretty sticky and difficult situations. He frees us to love him.
The image of Jesus as Shepherd also calls us out of the church walls and into the world to help people in need. During this pandemic we see the death of many people who were unable to hold the hands of family members they love. People are experiencing food insecurity during this time of job loss and isolation. The church is more than just a place for private devotion, it is a center from which we all learn to reach to people who need the basics of life, those who need healing and attention from us all. Jesus, the Shepherd models for us tenderness and care, not just in the sanctuary, but in the thickets of everyday life.
When we examine the images of Jesus revealed in the Easter Season, we learn that Jesus is kind, merciful and protective. These images form us as we celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord. These images and actions of Jesus help us learn to live in our world differently, with hope and promise for all people.
1 John 3;1-2: Beloved, see what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
God give you peace,