4th Sunday of Easter (B)


4th SUNDAY OF EASTER (B) John 10: 11-18 - April 22, 2018

I am the good shepherd, says the Lord, I know my sheep, and mine know me

The Catacombs of Rome are underground burial places, where the persecuted Christians of the early years of the Church buried secretly their dead, especially their martyrs. There are at least forty of some discovered catacombs. Sited along the Appian Way is the catacomb of Saint Callixtus, where we find the oldest drawing in Christian art portraying the image of Jesus as a good shepherd holding on his shoulders a timid sheep.

Many of us live in an urban society in which shepherding is mostly something of the farms, the past or the subject of writers, poets, and children story tellers, like Rafael Pombo; but even today we are happy to think of Christ as our Good Shepherd. On this Sunday we are invited to turn aside from all the chaotic activities of our daily life and enjoy the security, peace, and calm which the picture of the Good Shepherd suggests. This icon is probably the most biblical and tender image that represents the love and compassion of Jesus, Good Shepherd, for us, his flock.

But the story of the Good Shepherd is not a romantic tale or a soap opera. There is an enemy behind the scene, the wolf, the devil. We are told in today´s Gospel that the wolf many times manages to snatch some of the lambs and scatters the rest, “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them.”

In our contemporary society we have the tendency to romanticize sheep herding. But in Jesus' day, it was a lonesome and dangerous job. Jesus was not exaggerating when he says that the good shepherd must be ready to lay down his life for the sheep. It is only the bad shepherd who flees because he is not able to risk his own life when they are attacked. Of course Jesus is not speaking about sheep herding. That is a metaphor. He is instead talking about the personal relationship that must exist between him and his followers.

It is up to us, as a Church, to allow the wolf to damage the most sensitive and defenseless members of our flock, the weak in faith, those who feel discourage and rejected by society, those victims of abuse, gossip or slander. No need to mention that bishops and priests are not the only shepherds. In the Church we are all called to be good shepherds for one another.

As much as we are aware of our responsibility in the ministry in the Church, we recognize that we should take care of other members in our community. The first shepherds of all are parents. They have the honor and task to teach and guide their children, to care for them and give them a good example. Parents have the duty to reflect for their sons and daughters the image of the Good Shepherd. Teachers have also the moral duty to guide their students. But not only parents and teachers are shepherds, also grandparents, family members and especially godparents are teachers by word and life. Other members in the Church are also called to be shepherds, those in different lay ministries, religious, readers and catechists, health personnel, and many more.

On this Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, the Church celebrates a world day of prayers for vocations to the priesthood, as well, as it is an opportunity to reflect on the Christian ministerial priesthood and pray for priests as ministers of our faith community. We priests and you lay people, coming together in prayer and in liturgical celebration, fulfill the priesthood of Christ on earth. We priests are not perfect shepherds; Jesus is the only good and best shepherd. We acknowledge that our own vocation also depends on the prayer and encouragement that we receive from you, people who celebrate with us the sacraments daily and every week.

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