Acts 13:14, 43-52; Ps. 100; Rev. 7:9, 14b-17; Jn. 10:27-30
(Audio recorded live, 8 May 2022)
My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. Today is the Fourth Sunday of Easter, also known as Good Shepherd Sunday, and our Gospel passage provides us with a beautiful image of Jesus the Good Shepherd. Today is also the 59th Annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Bishop O’Connell is asking all the faithful to pray for those men who are currently in seminary as well as those who are currently considering the priesthood. Today is also Mother’s Day, and I would like to wish all our mothers a most blessed day. Before we knew the face of Jesus, we knew the face of our mother, and she has shepherded us in her own way, teaching us the faith and how to be good disciples of Jesus.
The way of discipleship is not easy. We heard of how Paul and Barnabas were persecuted and forced out of Antioch for teaching in the name of Jesus. But, they continued to speak out boldly, extending their message of salvation to the Gentiles, who were delighted to hear them. “All who were destined for eternal life came to believe, and the word of the Lord continued to spread through the whole region.” Our mothers and indeed many of our relatives, each in their own way, participate in this very mission of spreading the word of the Lord. And we are the recipients of the faith, which has been handed on to us. But, as recipients, we also are responsible for handing that same faith on to the next generation.
One of the most popular images of Jesus is that of the Good Shepherd. It is in fact one of the most ancient images as well. Some of the first paintings of Jesus may be found in the Christian catacombs, which portray him as a simple shepherd. This image shows the way in which the early Christian Church viewed Jesus: Meek and humble, approachable and accessible, with a voice that was well known by his own. “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
Following Jesus is not always easy. He himself said, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:24-25). But, we have a glimpse of what it is like for those who do follow Jesus in the Book of Revelation. The great multitude of people from every nation, race, people, and tongue appear before the throne of Almighty God and before the Lamb, who is Jesus. Then one of the elders tells John, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” In other words, these are the ones who have been saved by the sacrifice of Jesus; by their faith in the Good Shepherd, they have been washed clean and made to stand in the heavenly court. They can say with the psalmist, “Know that the LORD is God; he made us, his we are; his people, the flock he tends.” And Jesus says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”
Indeed, today, we have much to celebrate, but we also have work to do. During this Easter season, as the earth is being renewed around us, we too, must renew our hearts. We should take time to reflect upon our spiritual life. Are we following Jesus, or have we been shepherding ourselves? Are we where God wants us to be, or are we going our own way? Every path is unique, but as long as they all converge here, where you can hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, we are not far off. So, abide in Jesus and he will abide in you. Truly, there is no better way to abide in him than the celebration of the Eucharist. May the communion we share keep us close to the Good Shepherd, and may the good that we do throughout the week be a sign to others of him abiding in us.