Acts of the Apostles 4:8-12
Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said: “Leaders of the people and elders: If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a cripple, namely, by what means he was saved, then all of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed. He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 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.”
Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Gospel Cycle Cycle B
Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”
These early Christians had an immediate experience of Jesus in their lives. Those who joined them in this early fervor could almost touch Jesus simply by speaking with those who had. It is this aspect of handing on the faith that becomes damaged when we do not renew that experience of touching the risen Lord, knowing His living presence and accepting salvation from Him.
There are experiences today that renew that early experience. Many people who have gone to the shrines of the Blessed Virgin Mary around the world have come home with their faith renewed and some inner and very personal experience of the presence of God and of Jesus in their lives. Some believers have seen miracles happen and have sensed clearly the presence of the Risen Lord, even in our own present time. Some Catholics have had a clear, unexpected awareness of the presence of Jesus in their lives, even without asking for such an awareness.
In some of the new ecclesial movements in the Church, it seems quite appropriate to speak openly about these types of experiences of faith and of the presence of the Risen Lord Jesus. In this sense, we are still in the midst of an enormous change in the Catholic Church since the focus not so many years ago was on sacraments and obedience and not so very much on the personal experience of faith.
If we look at today’s readings in the light of personal experience, we see Saint Peter in the first reading absolutely convinced by his own experience that the Risen Lord Jesus had cured a cripple and had saved him as well. This is not just an experience of a physical healing but an experience of salvation: being saved from our sinful condition and made whole in divine life.
The second reading, from the first letter of John, speaks clearly of the experience of being a child of God yet there is still some uncertainly about what we shall be in the future—this kind of uncertainly is still present with us. But the author of this letter is absolutely certain of this: we shall be like Jesus because we shall see Him as He is! Our future is to be like Jesus, formed entirely by this divine reality.
The Gospel today brings us to the image of the good shepherd. Jesus is speaking to us directly when He says: I am the good shepherd.” This is a man who is God and who is willing to give His life for me. Even today, many of us Christians find it difficult to believe that anyone would willingly die for us, especially when our lives are still such a mess! But at the very center of our faith we find the words of Jesus: “I am the good shepherd.” Jesus looks for His sheep, He looks for those who have strayed, He calls us by name and He invites us to be with Him and to follow Him.
All of these readings and this Christian experience is so personal and invites us to respond to a God who loves us in the Risen Lord Jesus. Today we can commit ourselves once again to the Lord. We are invited to speak of our faith, even though it may seem small and hardly existence to us. We can say words such as these: Lord, I want to hear your voice! Lord, I want to follow you even though I am so unfaithful over and over again. Lord, I trust in you! It is only you who can save me! Heal me, Lord, for I have sinned against you. Let me know your face and I shall be saved.
Let us give thanks to the Lord in this time of Easter and again rejoice in the faithful love of God, who constantly seeks us and invites us once again to live with divine life.