FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
The fourth Sunday of Easter is called Good Shepherd Sunday because in all three cycles, the Gospel speaks to us about Jesus as our Good Shepherd. The Gospel presents Jesus as the model Shepherd in his spirit of dedication and willingness to surrender his life for his sheep. The letter of John speaks of the graced outcome of the Shepherd’s death: our becoming children of God. This Good Shepherd, moreover, is the only way to the Father, as Peter tells his listeners in Acts. In him alone is salvation, which is now extended to all humanity.
FIRST READING: Acts 4:8-12
Peter responds to the leaders who are disturbed by his healing of the crippled man at the gate of the Temple. He tells the leaders that the crippled man is healed through the power of the risen Christ working through him. Peter proclaims that all salvation comes through Jesus. The image of the rejected cornerstone is a popular proverb. Although it first appears in Psalm 118 in celebration of Israel’s triumph in battle, early Christianity adopted it as a metaphor for the Crucifixion. Jesus, rejected by his own people, is revealed as the Savior of the world.
SECOND READING: 1 John 3:1-2
John conveys to his readers the awesome privilege of the children of God. In and through Baptism, we live in God’s household. But one of the consequences of this reality is that the world which rejects Jesus will also reject us. John refers to what is called in theology the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet.’ Through Baptism, we are ‘already’ children of the light, but our complete transformation in Christ has ‘not yet’ been completed.
GOSPEL: John 10:11-18
Jesus uses the popular and well-loved image of a shepherd to describe himself. The chapter follows the healing of the man born blind. Not only do the Pharisees treat the man shamefully, but they also reject Jesus’ claim that he is from God. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, defends his authority and rejects that of the Pharisees. Like the hired hand, they have no true concern for their people.
There are two qualities that make Jesus a good shepherd. First, he lays down his life for his sheep, and second, he and his sheep know one another. The former quality is the central point of this passage.
Jesus’ reference to other sheep and to one flock underscores universality and unity, which are to characterize this new community of believers. In Jesus’ day, the other sheep may have referred to the poor, the tax collectors and sinners generally ostracized by society. For the Early Church, the other sheep may have been the Gentiles and others who had yet to hear the Good News. For us, the other sheep might be people of non-Christian religions and non-believers.
Jesus’ way of shepherding the flock is not one of domination, but one of care and concern. On the other hand, true sheep are the ones who hear the Shepherd’s voice. In a world of a million lies, we sheep find our anchor and truth in Christ and his Word.
Who are some modern examples of “rejected cornerstones”—people whose cause or work is not accepted by the general masses? Have you had a personal experience of being rejected for what you believe in or for a cause you feel strongly about?