Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A

Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 23:1-6; 1 Peter 2:20b-25; John 10:1-10

First Reading: In today’s first reading we read Peter’s discourse following the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Peter proclaims that Jesus is both Lord and Christ. Those who were gathered were cut to the heart. About three thousand persons hear Peter’s call for repentance and are baptized.

Psalm 23: As a response to the first reading, this beloved psalm captures the longing for God’s love and protection which we all experience.

Second Reading: Patience in suffering for doing what is good is not easy, yet Christ our shepherd has shown us that this is the way which we are to walk, and is a “grace before God.”

Gospel: The Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Easter is always about the Good Shepherd, and thus we are prepared to hear Jesus say, “I am the Good Shepherd.” Surprisingly, that is not how Jesus identifies himself at the beginning of this chapter of John. Rather, he tells a parable about entering the sheepfold, insisting that only a shepherd can come through the door or the gate.

Reflection: In today’s Gospel, Jesus is trying to teach the Pharisees something that they fail to understand. Immediately before today’s passage, Jesus has given sight to a blind man. The Pharisees have concluded that Jesus could not be from God because he does not observe the Sabbath. Jesus has accused them of being blind. What is it that the Pharisees are unable to understand? Jesus is trying to teach the Pharisees his own identity.

They stubbornly resist his words and witness, so he uses metaphorical language from the Old Testament. The image of God as shepherd reaches back to the book of Genesis (48:15), to Psalm 23, to the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Micah. In the second part of the reading Jesus speaks even more clearly: he is “the gate for the sheep” (verse 7), and his is the unmistakable voice of the true shepherd. In the Gospel according to John, the “I am” statements are especially important, for in these statements Jesus reveals his oneness with the Father. Jesus is both the gate and the shepherd.

It is critical that we listen to the voice of the Shepherd and stay close to him for protection. Jesus’ voice is heard in many ways through many persons. For example, he speaks to us in the voice of someone choosing to do the right thing, even at personal cost. He speaks to us in the voices of those who cry out passionately against injustices. He speaks to us in the self-giving of parents who choose to shepherd their children toward right values and actions. These everyday experiences teach us to listen better to the Good Shepherd’s voice that leads us to greater strength and fuller life.

Jesus assures us (and them) that his guidance will always lead us to the fullness of life because the depth of his experience of human living and dying. His wisdom is unsurpassable and his voice is true. We must stay close to him because he guides us to the abundant life he wishes to give us. Jesus assures us twice – “Amen, amen, I say to you” – of the strength of his promise and the clarity of his mission. He is our sure guide.

Question for reflection: What helps me to recognize Jesus’ voice amid all the competing voices in my life?

Copyright © 2017, Scott W. Eakins. All Rights Reserved.

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