07 May, 2017. 4th Sunday of Easter

See Presider’s Page for this date, for a suggested Opening Comment, Alternative Opening Prayer (from 1998 ICEL Missal), Prayers of the Faithful, etc.

1st Reading: Acts 2:14, 36-41

Peter’s message to the Jewish public, at Pentecost

Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. . . Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”

Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”

And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

2nd Reading: First Letter of St Peter 2:20-25

In praise of the martyrs, who came through times of persecution trusting in Christ, the Good Shepherd

If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

Gospel: John 10:1-10

Christ is the true Shepherd, each one personally; and no one can take away his sheep

“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.


The Good Shepherd

Jesus often illustrated his teaching by referring to shepherds and sheep. He sees himself as the Good Shepherd foretold by the prophets. Today’s gospel considers the relationship between the Good Shepherd and the sheep. The imagery is old. The message is topical. It is relevant to us. By faith we accept Jesus, Our relationship is a deeply personal one. The bond of love uniting us is based on the love that unites the Father and Jesus. Our new existence is founded on God’s unbreakable love and faithfulness.

In order to enter eternal life we must listen to Jesus and obey him. The alternative opening prayer puts this in practical terms. We have to tune our minds to the sound of his voice. Self-centredness can make us deaf to the voice of Jesus. Easy options can draw us into easier paths than the one he has traced. Pressure to abandon Christian principles is inevitable. But God is faithful and will not let us be tempted beyond our strength. No one can drag us away from him, The Father has entrusted us to his Son. The same God who kept faith with Jesus by raising him from the dead will also raise us by his power.

“Good Shepherd Sunday” is a prompt for us to think and pray about how the catholic church will fare for priests in the future. In Ireland right now  the average age of ordained priests is above sixty five, a statistic that demands significant change in how to recruit priests for the future, and what is to be expected of them. With the support of all Catholic worshippers, our bishops need to grapple urgently with this question. And they need to bring all of the active faithful into this dialogue, in order to find a viable way forward. Padraig McCarthy points to the nub of the problem: “there is no such thing as a priest-less parish. There may not be an ordained priest there, but the parish itself is a priestly people. How will this priesthood of the baptised take flesh in the coming decades? What factors which had value in the past are now hindering the mission of the church? What new model of ministerial priesthood is needed?”

These questions need pondering by all, bishops, priests and laity:

1) Who will be the true shepherds in the coming years?

2) How will those shepherds carry out the mission to those outside the fold?

3) What needs to change in the church so that each Eucharistic community can have a full celebration every Sunday?

Reviving our relationship with Jesus

[José Antonio Pagola]

In our Christian communities we need to discover a new experience with Jesus, some way to revive our relationship with him. He needs to be put decisively in the center of our life, so that we move from just a routine profession of faith in Him, to welcoming Jesus in a vital way. The Gospel of John offers some important suggestions when speaking of the relationship of the sheep with their shepherd.

The first suggestion is to «listen to his voice» in its full freshness and originality. Don’t cast it in relation to traditions or to the fad of the day. Don’t allow ourselves to be distracted or upset by other strange voices that, though they’re heard from within the Church, don’t communicate the Good News.

It’s important to feel ourselves called by Jesus «by our name». We need to let ourselves be attracted to him. We need to discover, little by little and more joyfully each day, that no one responds like he does to our most decisive questions, our most profound yearnings, our deepest needs.

It’s decisive to actually «follow» Jesus. The Christian faith isn’t primarily believing things about Jesus, but rather believing IN Jesus: trusting and confiding in his person. We need to be inspired by his way of living in order to orient our own existence with clarity and responsibility. This living relationship with Jesus isn’t born in us automatically. It gets awakened within us in fragile and simple ways. At first it may be just a desire, often surrounded by doubts, questions and resistance. But, and I’m not quite sure how, there does come a moment when such personal contact with Jesus begins to decisively mark our lives.

Surely the future of the faith in our midst is being decided, for the most part, in the conscience of those who in such moments feel ourselves to be Christians. Right now the faith is being revived or is being extinguished in our parishes and communities, in the hearts of the priests and faithful that form them.

Unbelief starts to penetrate us from the very moment that our relationship with Jesus loses its force, or gets put to sleep by routine, indifference and carelessness. That’s why Pope Francis has stressed our need to «create motivational and healthy spaces…places to regenerate faith in Jesus». This very timely, wake-up call deserves to be heard.


One Comment

  1. The lack of priests in training is due, in my opinion, to Apostacy. Too much liberal Catholicism. There is no sense of sin, that has gone out of the window, you can see it in the jack of confessions, There is no incentive for young men to be called to the priesthood. My observance of priests over the years and why they have become priests is mainly due to their one or both parents who are good practising Catholics. Anyway those are my thoughts.

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