4th Sunday of Easter-Cycle B-2009 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.”
1 John 3:1-2
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.”
What words of comfort we find in today’s readings! We can almost say that no matter how often we reject Jesus Christ, the cornerstone, the stone rejected even by His followers, God in Jesus Christ is still willing to welcome us back with open arms. No matter how many times we flee from the Good Shepherd, He is always willing to come after us once again and give His life for us. We are God’s children now and God will never reject us.
Can we presume on God’s love and mercy? Absolutely! Can we reject God? For sure! Bug God will never reject us. All we need is to give the slightest sign that we want to return and He is there. More than that, God is always actively seeking us out to bring us back to Him. No matter how often we stray, He comes looking for us with love and compassion.
Far too often we do not sense this message of love and mercy from our Church or from believers. Generally this is because the Church has a human dimensions and we encounter sinfulness and brokenness in it. However, we are supposed to be adult Catholics at some point in our lives and have the capacity to see in the midst of this humanity the clear signs of divinity shining through in our Church.
We can do this only if we are faithful to reading the Scriptures and seeking to understand them in the way that the saints and approved Catholic writers have understood them before us. The Catholic Church has always been clear about these two fonts of revelation: Scripture and Tradition. Actually we can say that Scripture is handed down to us in the living Tradition of the Church.
Today when individualism is so strong, many of us do not want anyone else involved in how we believe and in what we believe. To follow Christ, we must learn to live in community and to listen to those entrusted with the ministry of authority within the Church. The Acts of the Apostles, from which comes our first reading today, is clearly written from within a believing community and indicates the importance of that community and the importance of those who serve in the ministry of authority in that community for all who want to believe.
The First Letter of John also comes from that same way of believing: God speaks in a special way in the believing community and through those who exercise the ministry of authority within that community.
The image of the Good Shepherd in the Gospel of John is also clear that the sheep is only one of a group of sheep. Normally a shepherd watches over a flock, not over a single sheep.
Yet today so many of us want to be singular, special and we want distance, especially from those with whom we might disagree and distance from anyone who might have some ministry of authority over us.
Let us pray today that we can come once more to recognize Christ as our Good Shepherd, that we can recognize this ministry within our Church even today and that all of this can be based on a deep understanding of the incredible love and compassion of God for His people. God wants us, God invites us and God seeks us out. Let us come to Him.