4th Sunday of Easter-Cycle A-2017
FIRST READING 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.
SECOND READING 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 John 10:1-10
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.”
My sisters and brothers in the Lord,
“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.” — this almost sounds like the beginning of Lent, and yet it is from the Acts of the Apostles in our first reading today on the 4th Sunday of Easter. Easter, the Resurrection of the Lord, always is the culmination of Lent. We meditate on the death of Christ so that we can understand His Resurrection.
The second reading, from the First Letter of Saint Peter, echoes this same theme in these words: “He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.” Easter is not a time of joy that forgets the value of suffering—and the value of living as Jesus lived. In order to grow in our understanding of God’s love, we must also grow in our understanding of accepting suffering and our understanding of repentance.
Both of these readings bring us to the Gospel of John, which today is about the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd always watches over those given to Him and draws them to follow Him because they know His voice. On those who follow the Good Shepherd can enter the Kingdom. “Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.”
Following the Good Shepherd is not about belonging to the Catholic Church or to any Church. Following the Good Shepherd is about loving others. Many people love others and serve them and have not found a Christian community in which they feel at home. Or they have not found a Christian community that is so full of the life of Christ that they convert. One of the great criticisms of Christianity is that so many of us Christians are poor witnesses to the present of the love, mercy and forgiveness of Christ.
To be strong witnesses, we have to be able to accept suffering! We must be able to give our lives for others, not looking for comfort or good reputation or money or power or anything else: only the love that Jesus has given to us. And we must share that love with others by sacrificing ourselves. That is what Jesus did and that is what Jesus asks of us. We know the call: Come to me, all you who are burdened! But that means: come to me, suffer with me for others, give your life for others. In that you will find resurrection. Alleluia.
Your brother in the Lord,