Acts of the Apostles 2:14a, 36-41
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed: “Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, “What are we to do, my brothers?” Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.” He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.
1 Peter 2:20b-25
Beloved: If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
Gospel Cycle Cycle A
Jesus said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” Although Jesus used this figure of speech, the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them. So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
This Sunday has the themes of the Good Shepherd, so today we can reflect on Christ’s role in our lives as Shepherd and as Redeemer.
The first reading is very clear that God has made Jesus Lord and Christ. This kind of language sounds funny to us because it isn’t the way that we usually think about Jesus. Most of us have our minds developed in such a way that a person either is or is not something, especially if we are talking about Lord and Christ. We might be able to understand that God the Father made Jesus the Christ, since that means the “anointed one” and the “Messiah.” We can understand Jesus becoming that. But He is either Lord or not Lord and it is difficult for us to think of Him becoming Lord.
If we consult people who know more than we do about these usages, we find out that this would have been a common way of thinking for people coming out of the Hebrew/Jewish tradition, but difficult for someone coming out of a Greek tradition to understand. So it gives rise in the early Church to a heresy called “Adoptianism,” which indicates that Jesus is a human, adopted as a child of God and made to take on the role of Lord and Christ. Orthodox Christian belief rejected this explanation of Jesus.
The second reading is about how Christ suffered for us—and that we need to learn how to suffer from Him. This is surely a lesson that we must learn in our own time, when no wants to suffer and we believe that no one should have to suffer. Because of this cultural bias against suffering, we kill unborn children rather than let the parents suffer; we kill older people who are in bad health and whose quality of life is no longer deemed sufficient; and we even kill young children with birth defects, as has been admitted in some countries. We see nothing redeeming or humanly helpful in accepting suffering.
The second reading is really counter cultural for our “developed” cultures. “When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.” Have we been living this way? Does this description fit the way that we are living now?
The Gospel has two stories combined into one. The first is Jesus as the authentic voice of God as contrasted with the voice of the other religious leaders of His time. We can sense this enormous difference in the understanding that Jesus had of God from the understanding of the other religious leaders. God, the Father of Jesus, is a loving and caring God who invites us to share divine life. The others seem to have had a God who was all rules and regulations.
We in the Church can sometimes get caught up in rules and regulations even today. Jesus is very clear in saying that He did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them. We can say the same thing about regulations and laws in the Church today: we want to fulfill them not to abolish them.
This way of looking at the Church directs us always at this question: why are we following Jesus? Why do we remain in His Church?
He Himself answers us: I am the Good Shepherd! We recognize His voice and we must follow Him.
The second image in today’s Gospel makes Jesus the gate for the sheepfold. No one can go in or out without Him. The real point of the Gospel is right at the end: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” What a wonderful gift of life Jesus gives to us.
Let us pray today that we can recognize the divine life given to us in baptism and repent of all that keeps us from living that life fully. Let us keep our eyes on Jesus as our Good Shepherd and follow Him with joy!