Angels cheer when the lost sheep come home.
Today we hear the beautiful Gospel of the Good Shepherd who does not flee from the wolves but is prepared to lay down his life for the sheep. Many, if not most, of us who read this see it as a call to be like the Good Shepherd, to stand fast in the face of evil and protect those around us. That is, perhaps, one of the many things Jesus wants to take from this parable, but I believe that we are missing the rather obvious point if that’s what we take away from today’s Gospel. That so-obvious-we-often-miss-it point? We are the sheep. Christ says, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16) Israel was the original flock, and we are the sheep that belonged to another fold. Christ came to add us to his flock. We are the sheep who will hear his voice and unite as one flock with one shepherd. Well… We are the sheep, unless we have chosen to follow Satan and become one of the wolves.
Jesus Christ is the one and only Good Shepherd. If we follow anyone else, we are not in safe hands. We must follow the voice of the one who conquered death. We hear in the Easter Sequence “Death with life contended: // combat strangely ended! // Life’s own Champion, slain, // yet lives to reign. […] Christ is truly risen // from the dead we know. // Victorious King, Thy mercy show!” (Victimae paschali laudes, ICEL trans.)
The battle of the Good Shepherd against the wolves is already won. The real question is not, “Am I like the Good Shepherd?” but, “Do I follow his voice when I hear it? Do I allow him to protect me?” St. Peter tells us that “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” (Acts 4:12) If we follow Christ’s voice, we will be saved, but if we instead follow the voices of this world, the voices of power, money, carnal pleasure, gender ideology, politics, or whatever else is floating around, then we will not be saved. We will become one of the wolves who scatter and capture, dragging others down to hell with us.
God has bestowed his love upon humanity and invited us to become his children. When we were baptized, we were given that title: Child of God. We don’t entirely grasp how glorious this is because we don’t grasp the glory of God. We were created in the image and likeness of God. We were adopted as his sons and daughters at our Baptism. Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, came to this earth to call us to himself so that he might save us from the wolves of sin and death. We have been invited to join God in an eternal life of joy after we pass from this earth. This is the destiny to which every one of us are called.
Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete once said, “Our first interest is in our own destiny, and it that is not there, there is no way we can be interested in anything beyond that. To say that, the accusation, the fear will immediately grow in us that I am being selfish. I should first take care of the needs of other people; I should care first more about other people, and then about me. But you cannot care about anyone else unless you care about yourself. […] Christ presents himself as our Redeemer because he rescues, strengthens, safeguards this interest in our destiny.” (Albacete, Culture at the Crossroads (online PDF), pg. 63)
Let us look to the glorious destiny to which we have been called. We are the beloved children of God. We are the sheep protected by the Good Shepherd. “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)
April 25, 2021
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Acts 4:8-12; Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18
Today Jesus gives us one of the most beautiful images in all of the Gospels: Jesus the Good Shepherd. His sheep know his voice, and they follow his voice. He protects his sheep from the robbers and thieves who come to destroy them. I know that I like to picture myself as one of Jesus’s sheep, following him to the green pastures of Heaven.
When a baby is born, that baby knows the voices of his or her parents, maybe grandparents, possibly a few other people. The baby knows that these voices are safe, because the baby has heard those voices before. New voices confuse or even frighten the baby. As the baby grows from youthhood to adulthood, the child starts deciding which voices to listen to and which voices to ignore. Instead of listening to his parents, he listens to Hugh Hefner and decides to objectify women. Instead of listening to her grandmother, she listens to advertisements that tell her ‘everyone is doing it.’ Instead of listening to Jesus’s message transmitted through the church, we think that consumerism and materialism will bring us total happiness.
With this in mind, I have to ask myself: am I really one of Jesus’s sheep who recognizes his voice? When Jesus calls us, do we listen to him, or do we listen to someone else? Am I listening to the voices of the world instead, and following them? If I am following Jesus, I can enter into the gates of Heaven, but if I am following a robber, I will only enter the gates of sin, death and hell. We have to realize that if we listen to the world and the devil for too long, it will be very, very difficult to hear Jesus’s voice over all the noise.
In both the first reading and second reading today, Peter is instructing the faithful in how to live a life where we follow Jesus instead of the world. We find the first few steps in the first reading. In the first homily recorded, Peter tells those gathered—and us today—to save ourselves from “this corrupt generation” by repentance and baptism. Through this gift, we receive the Holy Spirit who aids us in living a good, Christian life. After preaching the Good News of Christ’s fulfillment of the Scriptures, Passion and Resurrection, Peter called the people to action, and they acted. Over 3000 people were baptized that very day.
The second reading is from Peter’s first letter. In it, he holds up Christ as an example for how to live a holy life. We must suffer patiently, offering our suffering to God. We must live the beatitudes, not returning insult for insult, judging justly, and living righteously. Then Peter tells writes two of the most profound lines in the New Testament, “By his wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”
Christ saved us, and wants us to live with him forever in complete happiness, but we must listen for his voice in order to do this. Sometimes he will ask us to live in a way that is difficult, that we might not think is very good, but if we listen to Jesus, and follow him, we can enter the Kingdom of Heaven. When things are difficult, we can always remember that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, “walks ahead of [us], and [we] follow him.” No matter where Jesus asks us to go, he has already been there, and that is a great comfort.
Like a baby who trusts the voice of his or her mother and father, let us trust the voice of Jesus, because it is those who are childlike to whom Jesus promised his kingdom.
Un resumen en español
Como los bebes escuchan a sus padres, tenemos que escuchar para la voz de Jesús. San Pedro nos dijo unas instrucciones para vivir en Cristo. Necesitamos seguir los mandamientos y vivir las bienaventuranzas. Cuando vivir la vida cristiana, podemos escuchar la voz de Cristo.
Today’s Readings: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6; 1 Pt 2:20b-25; Jn 10:1-10