Do our choices reveal us as good shepherds, too?
By: By Sharon Priester
Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 29
Acts of the Apostles 4:8-12; Psalm 118:1,8-9,21-23,26,28,29; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18
In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus, in response to the Pharisees’ attacks, describes himself as the “good shepherd,” devoted to taking care of his sheep even to the point of sacrificing his life for them. He knows each of his sheep and they, in turn, know him in the same way that his Father knows him and he knows his Father.
Jesus compares his devotion and love for his sheep to that of a man who is hired to take care of someone else’s sheep. This hired man, not a shepherd, is only concerned about his pay. In times of danger, he runs away, leaving the sheep unattended, causing them to scatter everywhere.
Are we more like the hired man or Jesus? Are we willing to sacrifice for another or run away?
Just recently, I read an article about a woman willing to donate part of her kidney to anyone needing it. She knew the risks, but that didn’t make a difference to her. She was more focused on sacrificing herself so that someone else might live. I’m sure you know of other examples of people willing to sacrifice for others, laying down their life for someone else.
Jesus isn’t concerned with just the sheep in his flock, but also those that are not yet part of it. He says, “These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16)
Who are the sheep that did not belong to the flock in Jesus’ time? Maybe at the time that John wrote the Gospel, they were the pagans, or perhaps those who belonged to another church, or the Jews. Who are they now? Maybe it is the person who has fallen away from their Catholic faith. Whoever it is, it is important to be a good shepherd and lead them back to the flock.
LOVING GOD IN TRUTH, ACTION
Peter, as he went to the temple with John, met a crippled man at the gates of the temple asking for alms. Instead of giving the man alms, Peter reached for the man’s hand and healed him, allowing him to walk again. Peter and John then entered the temple and were “teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.” (Acts 4:2)
Disturbed by this, the temple priests and guards laid hands on them and took them into custody. The first reading this weekend describes what Peter said as he and John appeared before the Sanhedrin the next day.
“By what power or by what name have you done this?” (Acts 4:7), they asked, referring to the healing of the crippled man. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter boldly responded, laying his life down before them, that the cripple was saved “in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed.” (Acts 4:10)
Peter goes on to describe Jesus as “the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.” (Acts 4:11) By calling Jesus the “cornerstone” — the first and most important stone in the foundation of the building, the one that determines were all the stones are placed — Peter is trying to tell the Sanhedrin that it is only through Jesus that the people will receive salvation, not anyone else. Their deliverance only comes through Christ.
In the second reading, John tells us that through the love of the Father, we have received his Son and have been made the children of God. What we are to be in the future is not known. However, we should let our actions, choices and motives reflect how we too are good shepherds, laying down our lives to build the kingdom of God here on earth, loving God and others “not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” (1 John 3:18)
Those who believe and follow God’s ways shall see God as God is.
SHARON PRIESTER is one of six regional directors of religious education working with the diocesan Office of Catechetics. She is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington.