First Reading Acts 2:14, 36-41
Psalm Psalm 23:1-6
Second Reading 1 Peter 2:20-25
Gospel John 10:1-10
Gospel – John 10:1-10
“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.
So 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.
Hearing the Word
The readings of the fourth Sunday of Easter make it abundantly clear that Jesus provides the unsurpassed and most direct access to God. Thanks to who he is, his passion and his resurrection, the person of Jesus provides a direct gateway to God, and to God’s eternal kingdom.
The first reading continues the speech of Peter delivered at the Pentecost. In the passage from the same speech read last Sunday, Peter focused on the resurrection of Jesus, while today’s passage discusses the outcome of the resurrection for both Jesus and for believers.
The earthly work of Jesus culminated in the resurrection, when God made Jesus “Lord and Christ.” These are two very important titles. The ordinary meaning of the word “Lord” indicates someone with authority. However, this word is also used by the Greek translation of the Old Testament to translation God’s proper name, which the Israelites did not dare to pronounce. Using this word, the author of Acts indicates that Jesus, thanks to his resurrection, assumed authority over all creation and became its Lord. The second title, “Christ”, is not Jesus’ family name, as many wrongly assume. “Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah”, which means “the anointed one”. By applying this title to Jesus, the author of Acts implies that Jesus was anointed by God and sent into the world to carry out the mission of salvation, the mission he successfully accomplished and concluded, by dying and rising from the dead.
The second part of this passage contains Peter’s call to his fellow Jews to repent and be baptized. Repentance in the Scripture means turning away from all misguided and erroneous ways of living, that contradict God’s will and intentions. It also means turning away from seeking God in any other way, or in any other religion but through Christ. Baptism refers to the rite of inclusion into the Christian community. Since Jesus, through his resurrection, manifested that he is both Lord and Christ, all humanity, the Jewish people and “those who were far away” (the non-Jews), are now called to turn to him and become members of the Christian community.
The second reading from 1 Peter lays great emphasis on Christ’s central role in providing believers with access to God. The author begins by alluding to the sufferings that some endure because they are Christians. When someone suffers and is persecuted for doing good, and for following Jesus’ ways, he or she resembles Christ. But this passage clearly focuses on Christ’s sufferings. The author emphasizes that Christ went to the cross because of our sins. The book of Genesis clearly shows that the immediate and main consequence of the sin of the first people was the breakdown of the relationship between God and humanity. Ever since that time, humanity lived with limited access to, and isolation from, God. Christ went to the cross to defeat sin, and liberate humanity from its effects. This means that he removed the main obstacle that prevented people from having access to God. By the wounds that Jesus suffered he has healed human hearts broken by sin, so that the faithful may return to God wholeheartedly. Doing so Jesus became the leader and guardian of all who search for God.
The well-known story of the good shepherd from the Gospel of John used the imagery of the sheep, the shepherd, the sheepfold and the gate to describe Jesus. The author applies these images to Jesus for one single purpose – to indicate that Jesus is the true leader of God’s people (the shepherd) and the only gateway to God and God’s kingdom (the gate). Reading this story, John clearly refers to the prophetic denouncement of the Israelite leaders by the prophet Ezekiel. In his speech, the prophet reflected on the tragic fate of the Israelites who suffered destruction and exile at the hands of the Babylonians. The reasons for this tragedy lay in the selfish and abusive behavior of “Israel’s shepherds”, its leaders. Ezekiel prophesied that God himself would intervene and would become the good shepherd, who would provide for his people and secure their lives (Ezek 34:11-16). John uses the parable of the good shepherd to show that this promise and prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus. For those who “know Jesus’ voice”, those who have faith in him and follow his ways, he becomes the guardian and leader. He also opens the way to God, and to eternal life for his followers. In his resurrection, Jesus becomes the gateway to God and eternal life for those who believe in him.
At the time of Peter and John, in the initial days of Christianity, there were a great variety of religions which proposed ways of contacting God, and offered various paths and means to salvation and immortality. However, for the early witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection, there was absolutely no doubt that the path to God and to eternal life led through Jesus. The proclamation of the early Church, the kerygma, focused entirely on Jesus’ death and resurrection. On the cross he abolished the lasting power of sin and threw open the path to God. In doing so he fulfilled his mission as Christ. In the resurrection he became the glorified Lord of all creation. Calling him “Lord Jesus Christ”, believers make a profound profession of faith, acknowledging that through him all faithful now have access to God and are granted membership among God’s people. It is because of Jesus, and only because of him, that believers may confidently sing with the Psalmist, “the Lord is my shepherd, … and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long”.
Listening to the Word of God
Today’s readings invite us to look at Jesus as the unique and secure way that can lead us to God. In contemporary society where suffering, poverty, famine, and other negative experiences are a part of many peoples’ lives, we need to question ourselves about the implications of our belonging to Christ. True faith always expresses itself through moral actions visible in the lives of believers. In the sufferings of Jesus, the full meaning of his title, “Christ”, was revealed, showing him as the one who liberates from oppression, and advocates for justice, while making use of the weapons of non-violence. This carries a lot of significance for today’s Christians on all continents, where the scourge of violence, increasing corruption, tribalism, and hatred seem to take over.
Each one of us ought to look at Jesus, the perfect model, who shows us the exceptional route to God. For us to be a part of his sheepfold means listening solely to his voice. We must do so for two main reasons. Firstly, Jesus leads us to accurate knowledge of the Triune God who is revealed through Jesus, His Word. Second, we have to acknowledge that there are many other voices which are competing for our attention today. These other voices, which advertise the non-Christian and secular lifestyle, are stronger than ever before. Certainly, the one who does not pay heed to Jesus’ voice will inevitably turn to idols which seek to replace God.
There are many false shepherds who actively search for new followers and cry out with seductive voice: “Listen to me”. Hence, it is important for all of us to see and notice those idols which try to distract us from listening to Jesus and which can cause us to deviate from following him. Those are surely the “thieves” mentioned in the Gospel. These thieves are very active in society, breaking into the lives of many in order to lead them astray from the truth. It is imperative for the followers of Jesus to co-operate with Jesus and stand against those adversaries of human life which try to deceive us into believing that happiness can be achieved without God.
It is good to keep in mind that, as the second reading of today clearly states, the commitment for the sake of God’s kingdom will often result in persecution, as Jesus himself was persecuted. However, it is also helpful to bear in mind that to those who win the victory, the Lord will give the life which lasts.
In what concrete ways can the victory be won today? It involves among other things standing against the scourge of violence, by becoming artisans of peace, saying no to bribery, tribalism, corruption, by promoting a culture of honesty, casting away all types of mediocrity and minimalistic approach, in studies as well as in professional work. With Jesus as the shepherd the destination will surely be reached; the arrival will be safe, though the way may not be smooth. Some may even die on account of their faith, but the final victory is secure, when we follow our shepherd, and choose him as our gateway to the Father.
What is my chose path in life? Could I say that it includes Jesus as the gateway somewhere along the way?
When I say that Jesus is “My Lord” what does it mean to me on a practical level?
Response to God
Lord, I need you more than ever. I pray for the many times I have gone astray from your path and ask for guidance to walk in your ways always.
Response to your World
I will determine what are the steps that would demonstrate that I have chosen Jesus as my gateway to the Father, and take them.
In our group we decide on the way to demonstrate that we follow Jesus the Good Shepherd. How can we help others to walk the path to God as taught by Jesus?
Bless me, heavenly Father, forgive my erring ways. Grant me strength to serve you, put purpose in my days. Give me understanding, enough to make me kind, so I may judge all people with my heart, not only my mind. Teach me to be patient in everything I do, content to trust your wisdom and to follow after you. Help me when I falter, hear me when I pray, and receive me in your kingdom to dwell with you forever. Amen.