21 April 2024 – 4th Sunday of Easter (B)

21 April 2024 – 4th Sunday of Easter (B)

1st Reading: Acts 4:8-12

By the power of the risen Jesus we can be saved

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead.

This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”

Responsorial: from Psalm 118

R./: The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in princes. (R./)

I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
and have been my saviour.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the Lord has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes. (R./)

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;
we bless you from the house of the Lord.
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
and have been my saviour.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his kindness endures forever. (R./)

2nd Reading: 1 John 3:1-2

The love of the Father, lavished on all God’s children

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what 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 will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.

Gospel: John 10:1-10

Christ is the true Shepherd; nobody 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.


Pastors who care for people

Jesus illustrates his teaching by referring to shepherds and sheep, seeing himself as the Good Shepherd foretold by the prophets. It’s about the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep. Though the imagery is old, the message is topical. It is relevant to us here and now. . By faith we accept Jesus, and 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.

Paul and Barnabas ‘spoke out boldly’, and made an impact. A courageous proclamation of the gospel to our contemporaries can be as fruitful now as it was in apostolic times. All the baptized, particularly those who are confirmed, are bound to spread the faith. Laity as well as priests and religious are in the service of the Risen Lord. Our faith urges us to take personal part in the work of evangelisation. Are we doing so? How many evils persist in our society just because good people say nothing and do nothing? A breviary hymn of Eastertide (no.25) spells out what is expected of us by the Risen Lord: Now he bids us tell abroad/How the lost may be restored/How the penitent forgiven/ How we too may enter heaven.

“Good Shepherd Sunday” is an opportunity to think and pray about how priestly ministry the catholic church will fare into the future. In 2015 Ireland the average age of ordained priests is about sixty five, a statistic that urgently calls for significant change in how we recruit priests for the future, and what is to be expected of them. In a recent article about this impending crisis, Padraig McCarthy invites us to remember that there is no such thing as a priest-less parish. “There may not be an ordained priest as is the practice at present, but the parish is a priestly people. How will this take flesh in the coming decades? Are there factors which had value in the past which now are an obstacle to the mission of the church? What new model of ministerial priesthood is called for?” Fr. McCarthy divides the shepherding challenge into three questions that are worth examining by 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 Catholic Church, so that each local community can have a full Eucharistic celebration every Sunday?

A very personal relationship

When people go to Rome on pilgrimage, they usually try to include a visit to the Catacombs, the earliest Christian cemeteries in existence. The earliest Christian art is there in the catacombs, in images are very simple and unadorned compared to the art that would emerge in later centuries. Yet these pictures are very striking just because of their simplicity and directness. One of the images of Jesus most found in the catacombs is that of the Good Shepherd. One is in the Catacomb of San Callistus, showing a young beardless man with a sheep draped around his shoulders and holding a bucket of water in his right hand. Clearly the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd that we find in today’s gospel spoke to Christians from the earliest days of the church.

The shepherd image in the catacombs appealed to Christians from the start, because it conveys the personal nature of the relationship between Jesus and his followers; it portrays the close personal care that the shepherd has for the sheep. The shepherd has gone looking for the one sheep that was wandered off and having found it, he takes it home to the flock upon his shoulders. There is a bond between the shepherd and this one sheep. That is what Jesus conveys in today’s gospel. He declares that he knows his own and his own know him, just as the Father knows him and he knows the Father. It is an extraordinary statement to make. Jesus is saying that the very personal relationship he has with his heavenly Father is the model for the equally personal relationship he has with each one of us. Jesus knows us as intimately as the Father knows him, and he wants us to know him as intimately as he knows the Father. There is a great deal to ponder there. When it comes to the Lord we are not just one of a crowd, lost in a sea of faces. In a way that we will never fully understand, the Lord knows each one of us by name. He relates to us in a personal way and he invites us to relate to him in a personal way. He wishes to enter into a personal relationship with each one of us. I am often struck by a line in Saint Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia, where he says, ‘I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me’. We can each make our own those words of Saint Paul. When Jesus says in today’s gospel that, as the good shepherd, ‘I lay down my life for my sheep’, he is saying that he lays down his life for each one of us individually.

The Lord who knows us by name, who gave himself in love for each one of us, also calls us by name. Today is Vocations Sunday. The Lord has a calling that is personal to each one of us. He calls us in our uniqueness with our very particular temperament, our unique identity, the background that is specific to each one of us. No one of us is like anyone else. Parents know how distinct and unique each of their children is. They will all have been given the same love; they grow up in basically the same environment. Yet, from a very early age, their uniqueness becomes very evident. The family is a microcosm of the church as a whole. From the time of our baptism, we are each called to be the Lord’s disciples, to follow the good Shepherd. However, the way we do that will be unique to each one of us. The particular way in which the Lord works through us is unique to each one of us. I can do something for the Lord that only I can do. Each person in this church can do something for the Lord that only he or she can do. Each one of us has a unique contribution to make to the work of the Lord in the world, to the life of the church, and that contribution is just as vital as anyone else’s contribution. We each have a unique vocation and each vocation is equally significant. Each one of us is vitally important to the Lord. When we each respond to our unique vocation, we give a lift to everyone else. When any one of us fails to respond to that vocation, we are all a little bit impoverished.

The first reading talks about the stone that was rejected by the builders becoming the keystone of the building. There is a clear reference there to Jesus himself, the rejected one. We can all feel at times like the rejected stone, for whatever reason. Yet, we are never rejected in the Lord’s eyes. He continues to call us in the way that is unique to us. He sees us as the keystone for some aspect of his work. He recognizes the potential for good that is within us all. On this Vocations Sunday we commit ourselves anew to hearing and responding to the call of the good shepherd.

One Comment

  1. Thara Benedicta says:

    Key Message:
    Am I a sheep or a shepherd?

    In one of the churches I found the choir master was a young ninth grade student. During the choir practice, he liked a particular song and said from his heart, “I grew up with this song”. Then he looked at the 6th grade cantor for that day and said, “Both of us have been growing up with this song”. All the elder choir members appreciated this young choir master’s comment and were very happy that the future church is building up!!

    My initial thoughts on this ninth grader was “He is a good sheep”. But now I am seeing him as “a future shepherd”. Our Lord Jesus, the good shepherd, ordains the ministry of shepherding His own flock to few of His sheep. All the Apostles were sheep turned into shepherds. Like this young choir master, God has blessed all of us with great good plans for our lives. Are we fulfilling our call completely?
    Testimony – “I received God’s call in my life and I am trying to fulfil it. But I am not able to do all that my Jesus is asking me to do completely. So I felt discouraged and this was stressing me out. I prayed to our Lord Jesus to show me what is lacking in me. Then our Lord clearly showed me that the devil is constantly trying to distract me by placing other thoughts in my mind. He was distracting me a lot and I was losing my initiative and interest”.
    In today’s Gospel reading also our Lord Jesus tells us the same thing – God had made a good plan for each one of us. As said in Jeremaiah – it is a plan only to prosper us. Not to harm us. But the enemy sets up his own plan for us to steal the good blessings of God in our life, to kill us and only to destroy us. The enemy does many tricks for stealing the good life God has ordained us with.

    What are the ways the enemy tricks us?
    Disobedience: When God created Heaven and the earth, God found everything was good. But the devil placed the tree of good and evil in the garden. Then God tells His children “Do not eat from this tree”. The devil tempted and both Adam and Eve fell into sin. God our Father will then search for Adam and Eve sadly, “Where are you?” God our Father knows that His little Adam and Eve are behind the bush. He did not require an iPhone tracker to spot them out. But the Bible says that sin separates us from God. So this sin of obedience separated Adam and Eve from God and also the life without hard work for Adam and childbirth without pain for Eve.
    Our Shepherd’s solution: Sweetly obey!!
    Testimony: “Because of my many downfalls due to disobedience, I realised that whatever God is asking me to do is only for my good and that is the best way. So every time I hear from God, I fear that something bad will happen if I do not obey God’s voice and obey His voice.”

    Procrastination: It is the thought, “Let me do it at a later time”. This never works out.
    Our Shepherd’s solution: Do it. Do not delay it.
    Testimony: “When I do my jobs immediately, I get lots of mental peace. I am able to be at rest internally, while I am able to handle huge pressures externally.”

    Sorrow: The devil fills us with sorrow. The people filled with evil spirits are not happy. They are always in agony.
    Our Shepherd’s solution: I have come to give you joy, abundantly.
    Have we seen any sad saints?

    Fear: The devil uses “fear” as one of the main tools. There are other tools like jealousy, gossip, telling lies and so on. All these can be overcome by a soul who is constantly trying to overcome the negative characteristics. But fear is something we do not recognise as our evil inclination. But it leads us to utmost failures.
    In today’s world, loneliness tends to induce fear in people. Lonely people who are affected by fear tend to watch lots of movies, sleep in broad daylight, always keep them in the company of people, keep calling up people and talking with them.
    Our Shepherd’s solution: “Fear not. For I am with you”
    Why did our Lord Jesus repeatedly remind us “Fear not. For I am with you”? It is because when we fear, we cannot do anything.
    When Noah was building the ark, all the other fellow humans mocked him. This is what the devil does. The devil makes his own ways to discourage us. But he continued to build the ark, irrespective of what others comment about him. This requires great courage resulting from the understanding that God will take care.

    Can we imagine a frightened sheep in the hands of our Lord Jesus the shepherd? No.
    Then why do we live like a frightened sheep in the hands of Lord Jesus, our shepherd?

    This question gave me a great clarity of who we are and in whose hands we are present. This vanishes all our fears.

    God always takes the first step in calling us. Like how He called the prophets during Old Testament times, Apostles during New Testament times, He selectively handpicks His priests and nuns during our current times. All His selected Apostles and prophets were normal human beings with lots of human weakness. But still they accomplished their shepherd jobs perfectly. All their contribution was the surrender of their will to God. Our Lord Jesus already knows our weakness also. So let us love and serve Him confidently!!

    Let us not worry if we are His imperfect sheep. His present sheep are His future shepherds!!

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