4th Sunday of Easter, Year B
Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29 (22)
1 John 3:1-2
April 25, 2021
Who is our shepherd?
Who is it that we expect to help us? Do we trust in man, meaning do expect other people to provide what we really need? Do we trust in princes, do we expect the government to solve all problems?
We should be able to count on the help of others.
Likewise, the government exists to serve the needs of the people (see Pope John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris). However, that doesn’t mean that the government has all the solutions.
What about the role of the church? Do you expect the “church” to solve all the problems while you sit back and watch? For example, well before there was a Coronavirus pandemic, attendance at Mass was falling. Do you expect the church to change this? Are you willing to help? Is it the church that needs to change or the world? Sometimes we have a hard time relating to the world. Here John writes, “The reason that world does not know us is that it did not know him.”
We also know is true for the number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life continues to decline.
The church has a role to play in building the kingdom of God. Both our reading from Acts and today’s psalm refers to the “builders.” The Jews saw themselves as a chosen race and they were. They were chosen to build up the Kingdom of God. There were leaders, both religious leaders and political leaders in Israel, who were appointed shepherds to lead God’s people.
Unfortunately, many did not fulfill the role of shepherd. Some because of their own self-interest or thinking they knew better than others. Some because they were not committed. They did their “job” to a point but as soon as they saw a wolf coming, they ran away.
How does God respond to this?
He sends Jesus who identifies himself, “I am the good shepherd.” Jesus is fully committed to being our shepherd. Three times in today’s eight verses He tells us that He will lay down his life for his sheep.
We are his sheep. Jesus is committed to us. He lays down his life on the Cross for us. He lays down his life and takes it up again the Resurrection.
Jesus is resurrected but it is not simply for himself that God raises him up. If it was, then why did Jesus appear to the disciples after the Resurrection. He could have simply returned to Heaven. He appeared risen so that we know of the Resurrection and what it means to rise body and soul.
Jesus does this as our shepherd. What is our response?
God loves us. “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.”
Yes, we are God’s children. We are the sheep of his flock.
Do we show the same commitment to God that Jesus shows for us in laying down his life?
Jesus is our shepherd. Who is God asking us to shepherd?
Are not parents not shepherds over their children? Parents are called to care for their children, to make sacrifice, to lay down their lives in some way for their children. This is the vocation of parenthood.
I use the word “vocation”. Today is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. One might think of priesthood and religious life when hearing the word “vocation.” However, vocation is something we all have. A “vocation” is what God calls us to.
We need people to respond to God’s call for them. Priests and religious (along with deacons) are called in a particular way to lay down their lives for others. Priests and religious lay down their lives in accepting celibacy. They lay their lives down in this way to in turn serve their spiritual family. Note how we call them by terms used to describe family relationships. We call them father, sister, and brother.
How are priests, religious, and deacons to fulfill their vocation? How is anyone called to fulfill what God asks of them?
How did Peter find the courage to speak up? He was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” God will give us what we need to do his will through the Holy Spirit.
God gives us what we need to do great things. However, we do not do it in our own name. We do it in the name of Jesus who was crucified and who God raised from the dead.
The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone of true life. There is no salvation through anyone or anything else.
Individuals need to do their part. Government needs to do its part. The church needs to its part. Yet, in the end, it is the Lord who is our shepherd. “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.”
The Lord is our shepherd. As we place our trust in him, may we in turn do what He asks of us, fulfilling the vocation He gives us.