Saturday, May 14, 2011

Good Shepherd Sunday, May 15, 2011, Cycle A

4th Sunday Easter Readings, Psalm, Gospel
I was blessed to live in Ireland during 2001.  It was not unusual when out for a country drive to see the scene depicted above.  Sheep in a road.  They actually have the right of way.  So occasionally you could come across a bit of a roadblock only to discover a flock of sheep being "shepherded" across the road by their lord.  Lord is a universal word for shepherd.

In our first Reading from Acts we hear about Peter who issues a challenge.  The formal Greek word for what he is doing is called Kerygma or proclamation.  He is laying it down, "Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus who you have crucified.

How stunning it is that Peter, who denied the Lord three times in his presence, at the hour of Jesus' "trial" is now standing before all of Israel in the Temple and saying these words.  What is more startling is their effect: 3000 join the ranks and are baptized, most likely all who were present.

The Psalmody we sing is a familiar one: The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want, he leads me to verdant pasture....he leads me to His kingdom.  For Jesus is the awaited Lord of Israel, the one who Peter proclaims to all who would listen.

When living in Ireland you appreciate the art of shepherding.  For the shepherds communicate very clearly to their flock.  They may whistle or tap the ground with their "crooks", they may signal with their hands or control the lead sheep with their eyes.  It is an art and the sheep in some mysterious way understand they are safe when they are guided by a good shepherd.

In our first reading we heard about Peter in the Acts of the Apostles and now in our second reading we hear from Peter in his first letter.  He tells us that we have been called specifically as Christians to follow in the footsteps of Christ, THE GOOD SHEPHERD.  Remember God is good, good is God.  What is not of God is not good. Period.

So just what is it that we are called to?  And how is it that we must listen?  (When I was 9 or 10 I felt called to the priesthood; it took me 25 years to listen) We learn from watching sheep that there are signals the shepherd may give us.  And the Good Shepherd, Jesus,  gives us many like the tender of the flocks.

He gives us his Word, He gives us His Sacraments, He gives us His Church, his Bride. In this Gospel reading from Saint John, Jesus attempts to explain the way a shepherd leads his flock to the Pharisees.  The Pharisees, in general, are not good.  They are confused by His words.  So He speaks very plainly.

He says, "I am the gate for the sheep".  Jesus is saying I am the authentic Messiah, the one who leads Israel into the promised land, who opens himself like a door to the kingdom.  He left His Church for us, the Church is the voice of Him that leads us to that door.  The other voices and signals are false, they are from robbers and thieves who want to ruin us not unlike the evil one.

Today on Good Shepherd Sunday let us ask ourselves, when do we notice the voice, gestures and call of our Lord God, Jesus Christ?  When do we listen and respond and when do we pray to learn His will better?  Do we recognize what He is calling us to do?  His voice leads us to "an abundant life" as the Gospel writer John tells us.  This is why he came.  This is why he comes today for us here in the Eucharist.  When we "recieve" Him, we receive his grace, his joy his promise of everlasting life.

The only question we should ask ourselves is, how do we respond?

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