Thursday, April 19, 2018

Fourth Sunday of Easter Year B

Readings: Acts 4:8-12; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18

The Good Shepherd, who risks his life for the sheep; who knows each by name; who leads, cares and protects his sheep. These are some of the phrases that help to focus on the central message of this Sunday. As we continue to reflect on the meaning of the resurrection, this Sunday we celebrate the risen Lord, the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. In the first reading, the faith of the apostles in the resurrection is radically transformed by their encounter with the Risen Lord. They realize that Jesus died for others and rose so that his followers might proclaim and witness his life to others. That faith and conviction leads them to continually witness fearlessly that Jesus Christ is risen. Peter no longer focuses on himself but on Jesus, the Risen Lord. With that radical change, Peter heals a cripple near the temple, an event that attracts much attention. He therefore uses the occasion to proclaim the uniqueness of Christ in whose name and no other the cripple has been healed. "There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved", he says. In other words, Jesus is the only way to the Father. In him alone is salvation. Faith in the risen Lord means transforming death to life and sickness to health. In the name of the risen Lord, the disciples and we too of today can transform the world. Faith in the resurrection may also provoke opposition because the same forces that tried to destroy Jesus are still at work in the world today. John in the second reading gives us the reason. "The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him" (Jesus). The failure of the world to know God should come as no surprise to the Christian community since the world has failed to recognize Jesus Christ as well. There is a price to pay for giving such a witness in the secular society of today.

The passage from the Gospel of St. John on the Good Shepherd needs to be seen in the light of the resurrection, for Christ is the one who died in order to save us. The passage mainly underlines the zeal of the Good Shepherd, who is not just another leader, but one who dies for his sheep rather than seeking his own glory. In the light of the resurrection, Christ is the Good Shepherd who risks his life in order to seek and to find the lost sheep. He brings them back to the flock, into the fullness of God’s life. Not only does the shepherd give his life for his sheep, but he also establishes a mutual friendship between himself and the sheep. "I know my own and my own know me". Jesus as the shepherd shows a deep sense of commitment and responsibility towards his followers.  He is a leader who is more concerned about others, a quality needed in our Church leaders today. On this Good shepherd Sunday, we are particularly asked to pray that the Church may be provided with the committed and holy shepherds, for spreading the Gospel. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) Like the apostles, may our faith in the Risen Lord so transform us to be like Jesus who died that others may have life; 2) Like the apostles, may our faith in the resurrection lead us to imitate Christ’s example by laying down our lives too for others; 3) Through our prayers, may the Church be provided with more committed and holy pastors who are credible witnesses of the gospel message by the genuine life they lead.

©2018 John S. Mbinda

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