Saturday, May 6, 2017

Fourth Sunday of Easter Year A

Readings: Acts 2:14, 36-41; 1 Pt 2:20-25; Jn 10:1-10

The Shepherd, the Gate, calling us by name, and hearing his voice, are some of the key the images that lead us into the central message of this Sunday. The Fourth Sunday of Easter is also known as “Good Shepherd Sunday”, a Sunday on which the Universal Church prays for good vocations. Those called to ministry in whatever capacity of Church life are like shepherds. They are called to care for the spiritual welfare of those they serve. The readings therefore focus on the Risen Lord, the Shepherd par excellence. There are two main images in the gospel: the image of the Gate and that of the Shepherd’s voice. The image of the Gate appears 5 times in the passage. Twice Jesus says, “I am the gate.” A gate can be an image of welcome into what is beyond. Jesus is ever the compassionate, welcoming and protecting gate. Whoever enters through this Gate is saved and finds abundant life. Psalm 23 used in the liturgy of this Sunday underlines the point that Jesus indeed leads us into verdant lush pastures, where He nourishes us in the security of His protection. The image of the Shepherd’s voice is linked to that of the Gate.  The sheep hear the voice of the Shepherd when He calls them one by one. Besides the voice of the Shepherd, the sheep also recognize the smell of the Shepherd otherwise they will run away from any stranger who does not smell like them. That is why Pope Francis has urged shepherds “to smell like the sheep.”

Why is the image of the voice of the Shepherd important? Experience show that some voices lie. Others seduce and mislead. That is why Jesus calls our attention to such voices that mislead and steal, particularly in the absence of the shepherds. We know that some voices comfort, while others encourage and speak the truth. These are the voices that lead us to abundant Life in Christ. These are the voices of faithful stewards at all levels of Church life that pass on the treasure of the faith to others. The challenge for those who hear the Shepherd’s voice is to remain close to Him so that they can continually be nourished and so grow in Christ. Choosing to listen to Jesus and following Him guarantees His care, protection and abundant life. The voice of Jesus calling us comes in various ways and through many people. As faithful stewards, we heed the cry of the poor that challenges us to be generous; we respond to the eyes of the downcast unselfishly and we welcome the stranger who may be Jesus in disguise. Choosing to follow Jesus in these ways brings new life to others and gives us a taste of the abundant life Jesus promises. That is a foretaste of salvation. What message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The gospel reading invites us to listen to the voice of our Shepherd who is the Gate in order to be secure and safe in our faith. 2) When we allow ourselves to be led by Jesus Christ, we find nourishment and abundant life. 3) We are all called to be shepherds and stewards in our various vocations. We are called to make our contribution in time, talent and treasure by using voices that comfort, voices that encourage and voices that speak the truth, particularly in seeking out those who may have been led astray from our parish community or simply at home inactive.

©2017 John S Mbinda

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