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.”
The Good Shepherd! For many people today, the image of a shepherd means practically nothing. Most of us no longer come from farming communities and even less from communities that raise sheep! In order for us to understand this image, which is repeated over and over in the Sacred Scriptures, we have to work a bit to understand what a shepherd does.
Raising sheep was not even common in most places until recent times. Now we can expect to find sheep in most countries. The shepherd was often hired although many times the shepherd was a member of the family who had no other responsibilities. We can understand that the shepherd had to stay with the sheep and did not normally bring them home every night and sleep in a bed in a house. There had to be a lot of pasture in order to raise sheep.
So when we think of God as a shepherd or Jesus as the Good Shepherd, we must think of God or Jesus totally dedicated to His flock and unable to leave them alone. We must think of God or Jesus as constantly trying to keep the sheep together—helping us humans live together, which is not something that we do easily! We must think of God or Jesus as constantly trying to find the food to feed us and keep us nourished. We have to think of God or Jesus as willing to suffer for us that He will not lose us.
These are wonderful insights into the relationship that both the Old and the New Testaments describe between God and us.
For us who believe, it is not only a matter of hearing wonderful images about God or about our Lord Jesus. No! It is a matter of knowing that this is the reality in which we live. God loves us intensely. God will seek us out if we are lost. God will find ways to nourish us. God is willing to suffer for us and has suffered for us in our Lord Jesus. God wants unity among us. This does not mean he wants us all to think alike! No, God wants the unity that is brought about by charity, by Christian love.
We can recognize from the first reading today, from the Acts of the Apostles, that we are the ones who crucify Jesus. And yet we are the ones redeemed by Jesus as well. We can recognize with the second reading from the First Letter of Peter that we are the ones who have gone astray and whom Jesus has sought out to bring us back. And we can recognize with the Gospel of John today that Jesus is calling each one of us by name, personally, so that we can follow Him and know the joys of divine life.