Watch Fr. Mark Mahoney preside over St. Julia’s Mass celebration of Good Shepherd Sunday, May 3.
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Reflection on the Fourth Sunday of Easter Readings: Good Shepherd Sunday
“I tell you most solemnly, I am the gate of the sheepfold. All others who have come are thieves and brigands; but the sheep took no notice of them. I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe: he will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.”
The first reading is taken from the Acts of the Apostles 2:14, 36-41 and if taken together with that of the following Sunday provides an alternative theme in exploring the preaching of the early Church in the persons of Paul and Barnabas. The mission first to the Jews is now to be placed second to the mission to the Gentiles, — a theme which the reading for next Sunday also explores with the warning of the preachers that those who follow the Lord will necessarily have to endure trial and sufferings. — A Celebrants Guide to the New Sacramentary – A Cycle by Kevin W. Irwin
The second reading is from the first Letter of Peter 2:20-25. In these verses today, St. Peter is giving advice to Christians who were slaves. He tells them to be submissive to their masters with all respect.
The Gospel is from St. John 10:1-10. One of the oldest paintings of Christ, in the Roman catacombs, represents Christ as carrying the injured, straying sheep gently on His shoulders back to the sheepfold. This is an image of Christ which has always appealed to Christians. We have Christ as our shepherd—He tells us so himself in today’s gospel—and we do not resent being called sheep in this context. There is something guileless about a sheep, and at the same time a lot of foolishness! But with Christ as our shepherd and the “good shepherd” who is sincerely interested in the true welfare of His flock we have reason to rejoice.
The leaders of the Jews, the Pharisees and Sadducees, were false shepherds who tried to prevent the people from following Jesus, but they failed. They then killed the shepherd but in vain. He rose from the dead and His flock increased by the thousands and will keep increasing until time ends.
We surely are fortunate to belong to the sheepfold of Christ—His Church. We surely are blessed to have the Son of God as our Shepherd, who came among us in order to lead us to heaven. Do we fully appreciate our privileged position? Do we always live up to our heavenly vocation? We know His voice, we know what He asks of us, but do we always listen to that voice, do we always do what He asks of us?
There are many among us today who foolishly think they need no shepherd. They think they know all the facts of life while they are in total ignorance of the most basic fact of all, namely, the very purpose of life. Not that the thought of it does not arise disturbingly before their minds time and time again. But they try to smother that thought and ease their consciences by immersing themselves deeper and deeper in the affairs and the passing pleasures of this temporary life. Alas for them, a day of reckoning lies ahead, a day that is much nearer than they would like to believe. What will be their fate when they meet Christ the Judge, whom they had refused to follow and acknowledge during their days on earth?
This is a misfortune that could happen to any one of us, unless we think often of our purpose and our end in life. We have a few short years, but short though they be, we can earn for ourselves an eternity of happiness during this life. Let the straying sheep boast of their false freedom and of the passing joys they may get in this life—this freedom and these joys are mixed with much sorrow, and will end very soon. We know that if we follow the shepherd of our souls, we are on the way to the true life, the perfect life, the unending life which will have no admixture of sorrow, regret or pain. Where Christ is, there perfect happiness is, and there with God’s grace we hope and trust to be.
Excerpted from The Sunday Readings by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan, O.F.M.
• During the Eastertide season, see a rich offering of Mass services, and nationwide programming online at the Catholic TV Network here, including recorded special Masses and events with Pope Francis from the Vatican.