4th Sunday of Easter, Year A
Acts 2:14a, 36-41
Psalm 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6, (1)
1 Peter 2:20b-25
May 3, 2020
Today is the Fourth Sunday of Easter. Every year on the Fourth Sunday of Easter we read from the Good Shepherd discourse in chapter 10 of John’s Gospel. Thus, today is also called Good Shepherd Sunday.
In the portion of the discourse that we hear today, Jesus speaks of the relationship between the sheep and the shepherd.
Jesus speaks of those who, instead of entering through the gate, try to enter the sheepfold by climbing over elsewhere. He describes them as thieves and robbers.
Think of the sheepfold as Heaven. Jesus is the gate. He is the way we need to follow if we wish to enter eternal life in Heaven. However, today there are people who think everyone gets into Heaven. They think they can live however they want and still get into Heaven. Perhaps they are the thieves and robbers Jesus speaks of.
The shepherd knows his sheep. He knows their names. Jesus knows each and every one of us by name and He seeks to lead us to be who God calls us to be.
Jesus says that the sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd and follow only him. They will not follow a stranger.
Today, we hear many voices telling us many different things. It is important for us to know which voice is God’s. Otherwise, we might get overwhelmed by all the different voices or we follow the wrong voice without even realizing it.
What does it take to recognize God’s voice?
We need an ongoing relationship with Jesus. We need to pray regularly so that God is not a stranger to us. In prayer we learn to recognize God’s voice.
With the Coronavirus shutdown, I suspect a lot of people are praying more often. I saw a survey Friday that said 27% of Catholics say their faith is stronger now than before the virus. I would even say right now there are people praying who haven’t prayed or been to church in a long time. This is the silver lining of the cloud (Coronavirus) that we live under right now.
Perhaps some of you watching this Mass are among them. Are you praying more? Has the Coronavirus brought you back to church? We are thankful that you have joined us today. We long for the day when we can gather in person.
Of course, praying does not bring the instant fix we would like. We need to be patient. We need to trust in Jesus as our shepherd.
Probably the most well-known Psalm is Psalm 23. The response today is very familiar to many, “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.”
“Nothing I shall want….”
Really? I can think of something I want, something that I think we all want, an end to the Coronavirus. It will come. We need to be patient.
What does this say about Psalm 23 saying, “I shall not want”?
This does not mean that we get everything we want.
God gives us everything we need. He gives us repose. He refreshes our souls. He guides us in right paths.
When we listen to God, when we pray, when we have an ongoing relationship with God, He guides us in right paths. It’s not that He gives us everything we want. When we listen to God, we learn what is most important and we come to not want unnecessary stuff.
Of course, we still need to pray for an end to the Coronavirus. It will come. However, with God as our shepherd, we “fear no evil.”
This is not an easy time. We might feel like we are suffering when we have done nothing wrong. Here Peter says, “If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God.”
Remember, Jesus was without sin, but He was willing to suffer for our sins. It was not easy for him. Think of his Agony in the Garden. He prayed for the cup to pass but then surrendered to the Father’s Will. The Coronavirus is not caused by God but He is present with us through it.
Returning to the relationship with God as our shepherd and we are his sheep, have we gone astray? Certainly, well before there was the Coronavirus, many were going astray.
How do we get back on track? We repent. We seek forgiveness. We ask the Lord to guide us in right paths.
At the beginning, I said today is the Fourth Sunday of Easter. It is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday.
It is also a World Day of Prayer for Vocations. For many, the word “vocations” means priesthood and religious life. These certainly are vocations from God. Please pray for our clergy and religious. Pray that more people respond to the call.
However, vocations include more than just ordained and religious life. God calls everyone to use the gifts He has given them to work for the building up of the Kingdom of God.
Do you ask God to guide you as you make life choices? Do you pray about being married? Do you pray about having children and how to be a good Christian parent? Do you pray about how you might help others?
Remember Jesus’ words, “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved….I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”