The Fourth Sunday of Easter [B]
Acts 4:8-12 + 1 Jn 3:1-2 + Jn 10:11-18
April 22, 2018
“A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Knowing that this Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday, you’re not likely to be surprised by Jesus’ first words in today’s Gospel passage: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” In other words, a good shepherd is one who serves others in a radically sacrificial manner.
Having noted that, you might wonder what the Responsorial Psalm is to go with this Gospel passage. Your thoughts might turn to the 23rd psalm: “The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” But instead, the refrain for today’s Psalm is from Psalm 118: “The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.” What does Psalm 118 have to do with being a good shepherd? To answer this, we need some perspective.
If you go back to the first words of Jesus from today’s Gospel passage, they say something different from the images conjured by Psalm 23. The 23rd psalm, after all, is sung by one of the sheep. The 23rd psalm describes the comforts that come from the care of the Good Shepherd: green pastures, reposing near restful waters, and so on. This comfort is much like what a child enjoys under the care of his or her parents.
In the Second Reading, Saint John says that, in fact, “that is what we are”: children of God. During the season of Easter, the Church celebrates the joy and glory of Jesus’ Resurrection. Hopefully, we can celebrate with the joy of little children, giving thanks for the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.
However, as soon as we realize that we should be giving thanks, things begin to change. Giving thanks, of course, is not something that children do easily. A child has to be taught to give thanks. As we learn to give thanks, we begin to realize that all the gifts that we enjoy—life itself, our relationships, our material and spiritual goods—ultimately come from someone who did not have to give them to us. This is most especially true of the gift of Divine Mercy.
Once we thoroughly believe this, we see that we ought to be acting the same way. That is to say, our lives on earth ought to be given over less to the enjoying of gifts and more to the giving of sacrificial gifts. “We are God’s children now; what we shall later be has not yet come to light.” As Christians, we are all in the process of growing into this truth: becoming more like God the Father, the giver of all good gifts [see James 1:17].
As a child grows up to resemble his parents, so each Christian is meant to become like God the Father. This means becoming like that Father who sacrificed His only divine Son for us sinners and for our salvation. In turn, that divine Son reflects the selflessness of His Father in choosing to become the rejected stone that is the cornerstone of the Church. This rejection—which we see every time we gaze upon the crucifix—reminds us how we are called to shepherd those entrusted to our own care: in a radically sacrificial manner that accepts rejection for the good of the Father’s will.