April 25: Fourth Sunday of Easter Year C
Readings: Acts 13:14,43-52; Revelation 7:9,14-17; John 10:27-30
After focusing on the theme of meal, mission and martyrdom last Sunday, this Sunday we focus on the Shepherd and his Sheep. The readings first remind us that the risen Christ, the Lamb slain for our sins, is our Shepherd. He leads those who listen to springs of living water; to the waters of salvation. John the Evangelist in the Book of Revelations presents to us a vision of those who have gone through persecution and martyrdom; those who are finally rewarded with new life, where they will never hunger nor be thirsty again. In the words of Jesus, these are the people who have merited their reward, the sheep that belong to him; the sheep that listen to his voice and follow him, and thus the Shepherd gives them eternal life. The first reading focuses on the difficulties that beset the early Church in its witness. Paul and Barnabas listen to the voice of the Shepherd and set out. They follow the lead of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the message of the Shepherd to the Jews. The rejection of the Good News by the Jews in Antioch becomes a blessing in disguise, because Paul and Barnabas turn to the Gentiles who warmly welcome the Good News. The message is clear. Countless difficulties, opposition, deceit and persecution have never succeeded in blocking the evangelising mission of the Church.
The readings offer a profound message of Good News, hope and comfort for millions people in the world today, who suffer persecution, ridicule, and injustice. Indeed these are the millions of people that John the Evangelist saw in his vision. The message is quite powerful. Think of the many poor, hungry, and homeless persons in many parts of the world. Think of the many innocent victims of ethnic, racial wars and human rights violations in the world today. We are told that all these, who die in God’s grace, stand in the presence of the risen Christ, who will now lead them into springs of living water; into salvation where “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”. The Gospel passage offers us both comfort and great challenge. The comforting message is that no one can snatch the sheep out of his Father’s hands. The challenge for both that pastors and lay faithful alike is to be good shepherds to those entrusted to their care. We become good shepherds by listening to the voice of the Shepherd in a world with so many conflicting voices; by following the Shepherd faithfully; and by giving witness to the Shepherd, the Risen Lord. So what message do we take home? 1) The Risen Lord is the Lamb who shepherds through the Church and gives us spiritual nourishment; 2) Leaving the flock for whatever reason is dangerous for we will soon or later be snatched by the wolves of this world; 3) Both pastors and lay faithful are challenged to listen to the Shepherd and to follow Him. 4) We are challenged to actively contribute to the life and work of the flock, the parish by making positive suggestions for the improvement of the parish; 5) In the light of the resurrection, we are therefore challenged to proclaim the Good News of hope and comfort to those who are weak in their faith; those tested by the many conflicting voices in the world; those who find themselves following other voices and led away from the flock, away from the Shepherd; 6) Countless difficulties, opposition, deceit and persecution over the centuries have never succeeded in blocking the evangelising mission of the Church because the Shepherd is always there protecting his flock, for “no one can take them out of my hand; my Father who has given them to me is greater than all.”
©2010 John S. Mbinda