April 22, 2018
Fourth Sunday of Easter
On this fourth Sunday of the Easter season, the focus shifts from recalling the appearances of the resurrected Jesus toward considering Jesus in light of primary images in scripture. In the Gospel, Jesus describes the intimate bond between the Good Shepherd and the flock and how they know and recognize each other. The Letter of John describes the intimacy of God as Father and humanity as God’s children, who recognize and love each other. In our reading from Acts, Peter tells of the religious leaders who didn’t know or recognize their God when they encountered Jesus, and so crucified him. Our readings invite us to listen for our God, active in our daily lives, and to open ourselves to the intimacy that our Good Shepherd seeks with us. God also empowers us to then extend this intimacy out into the world, through our care for others.
LAY DOWN MY LIFE
In the Old Testament, God is described many times as the shepherd of the people of Israel. So when Jesus claims this image of God to describe himself, it is startling even to his disciples. In today’s Gospel, he takes the image one step beyond the Old Testament: as the Good Shepherd, he is to “lay down his life.” This phrase is stated, with slight variation, five times in today’s short passage. Jesus is describing the meaning of his life and of his death.
With firm roots in the story of Israel and their God, Jesus is now starting a new chapter. He is helping his disciples make sense of his death on the cross, and to describe how to follow this particular shepherd. When Jesus lays down his life, he is revealing the infinite love that he and the Father have for the flock. To follow Jesus, to be a part of Jesus’ flock, means participating in that same sacrificial love.
Jesus adds another feature to the shepherd imagery, which was also disturbing to his disciples. He refers to “other sheep which do not belong to this fold,” who will become part of the same flock. This likely refers to the Gentiles, to all peoples beyond Israel. The Shepherd extends his flock, but emphasizes that there is still only one flock. Jesus spoke forcefully and frequently, especially in the Gospel of John, of the importance of unity among those who follow him.
We who follow Jesus are expected to embrace the “other sheep,” to respect and celebrate differences among Christians. We are expected to learn from one another. All those things that seem to divide Jesus’s followers in culture, ethnicity, or history of conflict fade in comparison with the deeper unity of the one flock under one Shepherd. Living in unity is essential for us to be faithful and credible witnesses of Christ to the world.
Today’s Readings: Acts 4:8-12; Ps 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29; 1 Jn 3:1-2; Jn 10:11-18
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READINGS FOR APRIL 23 THRU 29
Monday: Acts 11:1-18; Ps 42:2-3; 43:3, 4; Jn 10:1-10
Tuesday: Acts 11:19-26; Ps 87:1b-7; Jn 10:22-30
Wednesday: 1 Pt 5:5b-14; Ps 89:2-3, 6-7, 16-17; Mk 16:15-20
Thursday: Acts 13:13-25: Ps 89:2-3, 21-22, 25, 27; Jn 13:16-20
Friday: Acts 13:26-33; Ps 2:6-11ab; Jn 14:1-6
Saturday: Acts 13:44-52; Ps 98:1-4; Jn 14:7-14
Sunday: Acts 9:26-31; Ps 22:26-28, 30-32;1 Jn 3:18-24; Jn 15:1-8
READINGS FOR APRIL 16 THRU APRIL 22
|Monday: Acts 6:8-15; Ps 119:23-24, 26-27, 29-30; Jn 6:22-29|
|Tuesday: Acts 7:51 — 8:1a; Ps 31:3cd-4, 6, 7b, 8a, 17, 21ab; Jn 6:30-35|
|Wednesday: Acts 8:1b-8; Ps 66:1-3a, 4-7a; Jn 6:35-40|
|Thursday: Acts 8:26-40; Ps 66:8-9, 16-17, 20; Jn 6:44-51|
|Friday: Acts 9:1-20; Ps 117:1bc, 2; Jn 6:52-59|
|Saturday: Acts 9:31-42; Ps 116:12-17; Jn 6:60-69|
|Sunday: Acts 4:8-12; Ps 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29; 1 Jn 3:1-2; Jn 10:11-18|