FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER (2019) –
GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY
Acts of the Apostles 13:14, 43-52
Psalms 100:1–3, 5
Revelation 7:9, 14b-17
The mere mention of the phrase “Good Shepherd” blessedly conjures up all of the thoughts written by the evangelist John in the beautiful tenth chapter of his gospel, a chapter divided into three parts to accommodate the Sunday lectionary’s three year cycle. Rather than repeat parts of the chapter, this year’s cycle gives us a meager three verses of the 42 verses which comprise chapter ten, and they focus our attention on the sheep’s ability to “hear” and recognize the voice of the shepherd, something that is critically important to truly living the Christian life and “following” in the Lord’s footsteps.
We live in an era, no doubt like any era, when the noise of life makes it sometimes difficult to hear. Whether in the world of politics or the Church, there are shepherds out there who could never be accused of being “good,” and sometimes they make a great deal of noise. It is important to be discerning about what to listen to, for even voices that might customarily be called ‘religious’ might not be saying things that have a large share in what is right, and just, and good. If the messages out there don’t lead us to be more loving, kind, compassionate, life-giving, prayerful, and generous, then we can be certain they are not from the Good Shepherd.
“My sheep hear my voice,” says Jesus, “and they follow me.” But sometimes we choose not to listen. Sometimes the guidance of the Good Shepherd is not heeded. This was surely true of the Jews in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, whose rejection of the Word deeply grieved Paul and Barnabas.
It takes a real effort to discern the voice of the Shepherd who never tires of leading us in the right direction. Countless numbers of voices will try to lead us astray, but our familiarity with the Shepherd’s voice will cause us to be receptive to His guidance in order that He might lead us to the promised “eternal pastures.” Because our Shepherd is rightly called Good, we can trust Him to “lead us to springs of life-giving water” where “God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.”