FIRST READING (God has made Jesus both Lord and Christ.)
A reading from the 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. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM (23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6)
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. (Ps 23:1)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul. (R)
He guides me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage. (R)
You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (R)
Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come. (R)
SECOND READING (You have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.)
A reading from the first Letter of Saint 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. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Jn 10:14)
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord; I know my sheep,
and mine know me. (R)
GOSPEL (I am the gate for the sheep.)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to 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.” —The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
“The Sheep follow him, because they hear his voice!”
Throughout the Church today, this fourth Sunday of Easter is called “Good Shepherd Sunday” as the readings each year come from the 10th Chapter of St. John’s Gospel where the Lord refers to himself as a shepherd.
In the world of the ancient Near East, in various cultures kings were often characterized by their subjects a shepherds, because – like a shepherd – the king as leader was responsible for the safety and welfare of his people, just as a shepherd was so responsible for the sheep of his flock.
Few of us understand how difficult and demanding the life of a shepherd was long ago and is even today. The descriptions that Jesus applies to himself as “shepherd” are many but from today’s Gospel one phrase stands out for reflection, “The Sheep follow him, because they hear his voice!” Long ago while cattle and other livestock were branded to prove ownership, this was not done to sheep. The sheep learned to recognize the voice and a unique call from shepherd. While often the sheep of many different folds or owners were corralled together in a village, in the morning as the sheep were taken out to pasture, the shepherds would each begin calling with his voice, or a whistle or lilt of throat, and the sheep would follow the “voice they knew.”
Many have pet dogs at home, and dogs have a similar gift of hearing the “master’s voice and following it.”
Again, although several flocks of sheep would be kept together at night for safety, the individual sheep recognized the voice of their own shepherd, and always followed that shepherd’s voice and lead. They did not follow the voice of a stranger. By means of metaphor, Jesus is telling us that those who belong to him will recognize his voice and follow it.
The challenge facing all of us who confess to follow Jesus is to listen to and hear the Master’s voice in the midst of competing voices and sounds demanding our attention, conflicting noises assaulting our senses and dissonant messages loudly challenging our very beliefs, values and loyalties. What voices are we accustomed to hear these days? Do we listen to voices that justify atrocities or that entice us to amorality? Are we drawn to voices promising ephemeral elation or quick fixes? And in the midst of a modern pandemic that has affected nearly the whole world in a matter of weeks and months, what voices will lead us to safety at this time?
We hear so many voices calling us, beckoning us, luring us: on talk radio, on television and the internet, in the lyrics of songs, in ads, and even among spokespersons of political and extremist groups. Voices, noises, sounds… “But what voice do we recognize and follow?”
Our psalm response today is taken from perhaps the best-known psalm of King David that is also built on the theme of the shepherd-king. In very moving imagery, we are reminded of the gentle guidance, the fierce protection, and the loving nurturing provided by a true shepherd. This shepherd is not simply a young hired hand who takes on his job of shepherding the herd for a fee – and who might run away at the first sign of real danger. This is a shepherd who has a bond of affection for his sheep. He is a shepherd filled with “kindness” – a loving kindness which refers back to the covenant. And we should note that this loving kindness is a virtue attributed to the shepherd alone, not to the sheep. It underscores the boundless and incomprehensible love and kindness of God our Father.
Our 2nd reading reminds us that we have been called by Christ “to follow in his footsteps,” as sheep “who had gone astray but [we] have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of [our] souls.” Again, in this reading St. Peter uses the metaphors of shepherd and sheep to describe our relationship with the Risen Lord. But while in other context this metaphor refers to our external – physical if you will – actions and behavior – like sheep with their shepherd, following his footsteps and heeding his voice, here the focus is now on our inner disposition, and the relationship of our SOUL to the shepherd. There is an interesting twist too in the language sued… when sheep wander off, it is the shepherd who must go after them to bring them back; but here, the wandering sheep somehow return… how? Perhaps the key is again, that unique VOICE. The voice of the shepherd calling out.
Peter also addresses the concept of Christian suffering, and this is very apropos for us to understand that in following the voice and in the footsteps of the shepherd there may be suffering. But we are reminded that it is for our sake that Christ bore his sufferings. In these times of fear, of suffering, of desperation and of death, Christ the Good Shepherd is our model. He is the one who will help us through these times, and follow HIM we must! For to follow HIM is the only way to righteousness.
It is up to each of us to decide whether or not we will heed the voice that calls.
“The Sheep follow him, because they hear his voice!”
Celebrant: The Lord is the Good Shepherd who knows each one of his flock by name. Let us offer our prayers to God, trusting in his personal love for us.
READER: That the holy Catholic Church may share the victory of the risen Christ by serving those who walk in the valley of darkness, especially those affected by the pandemic that surrounds us, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That men and women throughout the world who struggle for human rights may never be fooled by false leaders or by ways that lead to violence, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That the Lord will raise up more young men to be priests from among our diocese and community, to be shepherds of God’s people, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That our youth and young adults “may have life and have it to the full” through fidelity to the Good Shepherd and their faith heritage, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That the dead may pass through the gate of the sheepfold, and especially priests throughout the world who have died in recent weeks and for the intentions we carry in our hearts, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: Most gentle Father, you guide us along the right path; your Son is always there, beside us. Comfort us by granting these prayers, through Christ our Lord. (all) AMEN.