4th Sunday of Easter, year C

Safe in the Shepherds hand

Readings: Acts 13,14.43-52; Ps 100,1-2.3.5; Rev 7,9.14b-17; Jn 10,27-30

The 4th Sunday of Easter is celebrated as the „Sunday of the Good Shepherd“. The word of God invites us to contemplate Jesus as the Shepherd and see ourselves as the sheep of His flock. He knows where safety, pasture and fresh waters are and He leads us there. As His sheep we follow His footsteps. Nothing can snatch us from His hand.

Since we also celebrate the Sunday for Vocations, we ask the Lord to continue calling men and women with whom He can entrust the responsibility of being shepherds of His people. Let us keep in mind that God’s sheepfold accomodates all sheep. The Gospel is never a property of any group.

Tears are wiped from the sheeps eyes

In order to appreciate the value of shepherds, we ought to note that the Shepherd of the sheep (people)  is God Himself. He only invites human beings to share His shepherd-hood so that He can have all under His care. God is the provider, the protector and constant companion of the sheep. In Holy Scriptures we find characters (Abraham, Isaac, Rachel, Moses, David, Amos etc.) that tended sheep before God called them and entrusted them with a responsibility that had to do with taking care of His people. When God saw that the shepherds were feeding themselves instead of feeding the sheep, He decided to take charge Himself (see Ezechiel 34,1-16). The vision that John sees in the Book of Revelation (second reading) speaks about God who wipes away all tears from peoples’ eyes. We must be realistic that our world is sometimes a valley of tears. Think of the current soaring prices of essential commodities that are causing the poor to shed tears. The question is: „Where are our shepherds?” Do they also feel the pinch or are they busy feeding themselves? I do not think inviting the poor sheep to an ostentatious birthday really wipes away their tears!

The Good Shepherd knows the needs of the sheep

In His goodness and concern for the sheep, God gave us a Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. In today’s Gospel text Jesus says that the sheep that belong to Him listen to His voice and that He knows them. This is for us a challenge to ask ourselves whether we really know the voice of the Lord. Can we distinguish His voice from the many other voices who promise to care for us and yet end up exploiting us? He warned us that many will be clad in sheep’s skin yet inside they are ravenous wolves (see Matthew 7, 15). We need to be attentive in order to discern who the true shepherds are and who the false ones are. Jesus the Good Shepherd knows His own and knows their needs. Today’s sheep lack orientation because their leaders are disoriented themselves. We ought to ask the Lord to give us fresh orientation with values that make life valuable. The quick-fix answers to the complex questions of our life will certain plunge us into an abyss of meaninglessness. Jesus promises us true security. ”No one will ever steal them from my hand” says Jesus in today’s Gospel text. In His hands we are safe. He challenges to get to know how He keeps His own safe. He is the Lamb that was slain for the sake of the sheep. What a wonderful image that a lamb leads the sheep and is ready to lay down His life! It is just a putting into practice of the very meaning of love: “There is no greater love than one who is ready to lay down one’s life for ones friends” (John 15, 13). One could say that as disciples who are ever seeking closer nearness to Jesus, we have a “sheep insurance” guaranteed by Him the Good Shepherd.

Called to be each other’s shepherds

It is good to note that we should never delegate the responsibility of taking care of each other. This invites us to give up the “I - don’t - care” mentality that characterized Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Yes. You are a keeper of your brother/your sister and more so of his/her human dignity. Today we pray that God may call many more men and women (taken from the flock) to share in Christ’s shepherd-hood. These will be credible if they have the sentiments of the Good Shepherd, always moved with compassion especially for those sheep that are at the risk of being lost. Pope Francis invites the shepherds to have the smell of the sheep.  We are called to go out of our comfort zones and spend time with those we are shepherding, listen to them and serve especially the most vulnerable. This is not only for those called to be priests and religious. When mutual care and concern characterize our life together, then our families, communities, workplaces will become safe havens where people are concerned and sensitive to the needs of others.

Mothers are shepherds

Today we celebrate Mother’s Day. It is an opportunity to thank God for the precious gift of motherhood which we can easily translate as shepherd-hood. Mothers have an easier approach to life in its fragility. They embrace us with their love and are true companions on our journeys of growth. As we celebrate them, we ought to renew our commitment to defend their dignity and be motivated to support life. Let us, in a special way, be mindful of the “single mothers” who have not given up during hard and desperate times; who have sacrificed everything for their children. These mothers are bearers of light and collaborating with God to wipe away the tears from many eyes. Without mothers, our society risks remaining a vale of tears!