Traditionally, the Fourth Sunday of Easter is celebrated as “Good Shepherd Sunday” since the Gospel is taken every year from John 10, the “Good Shepherd Discourse.” This Sunday is also customarily observed as a day of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, since priests and religious are, in a special way, visible manifestations of Christ in His role as the Good Shepherd. The readings trace this line of thought.
In the first reading, Paul and Barnabas turned to the Gentiles to proclaim the Good News after they encountered stiff resistance from the Jews. The Gospel was well received by the Gentiles who joyfully embraced the faith in large numbers with great enthusiasm. They were now His (Christ’s) people, the sheep of His flock. This is echoed by the vision of John in the Book of Revelations where John, the visionary, saw “a great multitude, too numerous to count, from every nation, race, people and tongue.” This obviously refers to the assembly of all the saints, the flock of Christ from all nations, including Gentiles, first as an assembly of believers and ultimately at the end of time.
The Gospel presents the characteristics proper to the flock of Christ: they hear His voice, He knows them, and they follow Him. They recognize His voice through sufficiently formed conscience in the midst of contrasting mundane and contemporary ideals and standards. He knows that true witnesses will be faithful even in the face of evil, opposition and persecution, and they (the sheep) wholeheartedly follow Him by imitating His compassion and love. Each one of us gets to the point in life when we have to courageously ask and sincerely answer the question: “Am I really and truly a member of Christ’s flock?”
Fidelity to Christ’s teaching, and witnessing to the Good News, is ultimately rewarded with eternal life where the sheep that faithfully followed the Shepherd transforms in character and nature into Him whom they imitate with astute resilience (1John 3:2). However, this reward neither comes easy nor is it bestowed on pseudo sheep, but on those who listen to Jesus, know Him, and follow Him all the way and all the time.
Let us ask the Good Shepherd to raise for His Church shepherds aft er His own heart who will dutifully tend His sheep. May the sheep of Christ always hear His voice distinctly and clearly and may we always follow in His steps until we reach eternal life.
Please be kind and may God bless you.
Fr. ManassehBACK TO LIST