Sunday, May 11, 2014

Good Shepherd

                                     4th Sunday of Easter

A Mother's Sorrow
as her Son takes his Cross
Stained glass window
Assumption Church
Fairfield CT*

In the Sundays after Easter the readings usually give us testimony or witness to the Resurrection of the Lord. Two Sundays ago we had the touching account of doubting Thomas. Last Sunday, we heard about the appearance of the Risen Lord to the disciples at Emmaus. They recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

In today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter stands up in front of a congregation much like ours and proceeds to discuss the implications of the Resurrection.

"Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made both Lord and Christ this Jesus whom you crucified." 
One way for us to understand the word of God is to try and put ourselves in the picture whenever we hear the word proclaimed. Although Peter is speaking to the congregation of Jews in front of him, we should consider that he is also speaking to us. At the famous church Council of Trent, held over 400 years ago, the Church fathers refused to blame the Jews for the death of Christ. They said that inasmuch as Christ died for all men's sins, then all of us are responsible for His death. This position was reiterated at the Second Vatican Council.

However, since He died for all of us, He was raised from the dead for all of us. Peter reminds us:

For the promise is made to you and your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.

The word "call" should remind us of today’s gospel about the Good Shepherd. “The sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” What does it mean to hear the voice of the Lord? Most of us are never going to experience a mystical one-on-one calling. Maybe we should rather focus on what Jesus actually said and did as recorded in our Scriptures. Where is our shepherd leading us?

We know that he was a healer of both body and soul and he continually urged us to follow his example. He told us to love one another and our neighbor as ourselves. In a famous chapter in the Gospel of St. Matthew, he told us that whenever we fed the hungry, or clothed the naked, or visited the sick, we were doing it for Him.

Today is often called Good Shepherd Sunday but in a way Jesus asked us to follow his example and not just be sheep but shepherds to the little flock entrusted to our own care. Today is also Mother’s Day and there can be no better example of good shepherds in our midst than our own mothers. When we were young, we knew this instinctively. We followed our mother’s advice and guidance and went to them for shelter and protection. Little did we realize how much they suffered and bore so that we might live and prosper.

In today’s second reading Peter again speaks of those who have been called to follow the example of Christ. The words especially apply to all mothers.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.

All over the world today mothers are suffering for their children both young and old. We don’t often think of women as shepherds but the words that Peter spoke of Jesus could apply to most mothers. When they are insulted, they return no insult. When they suffer, they do not threaten. They patiently bear their children’s faults and imperfections in the hope that they might find happiness. And when their children go astray, they pray for them, search for them, and hope for their safe return.


* Assumption church window image by Melissa. Click on image to enlarge.

Reading 1.Acts 2: 14a, 36-41
Reading II. 1 Peter 2: 20b-25
Gospel. John 10: 1-10 (good shepherd.)

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