17 April 2016: Fourth Sunday of Easter [Good Shepherd Sunday]

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
 Acts 13:14, 43-52  Ps 100:1-2, 3, 5  Rev 7:9, 14b-17  Jn 10:27-30

 

Discipleship: invitations, tents, being shepherded

The Easter season readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection. This week’s Good Shepherd Sunday readings focus on discipleship with the resurrected Jesus.

The first reading from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles describes Paul’s first missionary success. The gentiles eagerly accepted Paul’s message, and “all who were destined for eternal life came to believe.” Luke’s divine passive (“came to believe”) reminds us that God, not Paul, makes disciples. Luke contrasts the synagogue leaders’ attitude (“filled with jealousy”) with the disciples’ attitude (“filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.”)

The second reading from John of Patmos’ book of Revelation describes how God, “the one who sits on the throne,” cares for God’s people: John uses the word σκηνόω (skay-NO-oh), which means “to pitch a tent over.” John may be thinking of the Hebrew people’s Tent of Meeting where God was present with them, protecting the Israelites during their desert journey. In the Promised Land, this tent became the Jerusalem Temple. In Revelation, the heavenly Jerusalem has no Temple because God is always present among the people. God’s presence brings peace, perfectly described as “no hunger or thirst, no burning heat.” In the same way, the Lamb leads (literally “shepherds”) his people to springs of living water.

The gospel from John the Evangelist echoes Jesus’ Good Shepherd discourse (Jn 10: 1-18). Just before today’s reading (Jn 10:22-26), Jesus and the temple authorities clash about faith and unbelief. Jesus sums up the faith of discipleship:

  • What is discipleship? Jesus’ disciples follow him because he “knows them:” Jesus remains in a personal relationship with his disciples.
  • The Lamb who shepherds: Jesus leads his disciples to the pastures of “eternal life” (literally “unceasing life”). They shall never perish spiritually or, ultimately, in any other way. (See the second reading.)
  • Jesus and the Father: Jesus can bless and protect his disciples because of his relationship with the Father, who is “greater than all.” The Father and Jesus “are one” in their position and their action toward their disciples. The Father and Jesus act with the same oneness because, with the Spirit, they share one divine nature. The good shepherd leads his disciples to the pastures of God’s Trinitarian life.

Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The Easter season gives us six weeks to reflect on this one cosmos-changing event; the Lectionary’s readings present stories, poems, songs, and visions to help us understand Easter from many viewpoints–lived human experience, mystery, faith, sacraments, theology. The believing community exists because God invites each of us into a joy-filled relationship. God is divinely and humanly present with us; God leads us and supports us. God knows us and wants us to know and to live God’s deep Trinitarian life. Do we accept God’s unwarranted and unexpected invitation? Can we give up self enough to be shepherded? Will we allow ourselves to know the resurrected life?

—Terence Sherlock

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