The Good Shepherd Lays His Life Down for His Sheep: 4th Sunday of Easter
Sermon by Emmanuel Suntheni OSB
SERMON AND CHRISTIAN ACT IN THE WORD
Theme: “GOOD SHEPHERD – lays His life down for His sheep”
Point of reflection: A Good Shepherd lays his life for his sheep. Do we recognise that Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd who laid His life for us (sheep)? Though the Good Shepherd was a rejected stone by builders, He became the cornerstone of our salvation: in our families, religious communities, societies, countries, how many people have we rejected? Or are we not the rejected ones?
Am I the child of God? Today God is calling us His children because He sent His only Son to redeem us, He is the Good Shepherd.
Good Shepherd Sunday is also called Vocations Sunday. As children of God, we are all called to serve the Lord in four different ways of life: Married life, Priestly life, Religious life (brother or sister), and individual life. Each and every Christian belongs to one of the four different ways of living life here on Earth.
First Reading: Acts 4:8–12
Psalm: Psalm 118:8–9, 21–23, 26, 28–29
Second Reading: 1 John 3:1–2
Gospel: John 10:11–18
Sermon (Reflection): Dear Children of God, let us begin our sermon with a figurative mind of powerful people in our societies: let us think of the State President of a Country, how powerful is he or she? Accessing the presidential palace of a sitting state president is tough. The red tape, the entry card and the security checks are enough to scare any ordinary person who desires to meet the state president. However, the children of the state president have no difficulty meeting their father.
Their status as children gives them unrestricted access to this otherwise inaccessible person. As Christians, we are children of God, we can access the Good Shepherd without security checks. No need for red tape, security checks and entry cards. The question we can ask ourselves is that, as a child of God, am I communicating with God the Father and the Son-the-Good-Shepherd?
The second reading of Good Shepherd Sunday points to the very reality that God has called us His children (John 3:1–2). God is so powerful, He is the Almighty, but He has given us clear access to Him without checks-in with red tape, entry cards and carpets. That’s the beauty of being a Christian. In a similar way, in union with Christ, we have become children of the Father and have full access to His kingdom. This salvific union makes the author of the first letter of John exclaim, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God, and that is what we are.” God loves us so much that He has called us His children.
The Gospel passage of the fourth Sunday in Easter highlights the true image of a Good Shepherd (John 10:11–18). Notably, today’s Gospel passage features one of the customary Johannine “I am” statements of Jesus: “I am the good shepherd”. In Johannine Gospel, “I am” phrases are used to reveal Jesus’ identity and mission. Therefore, the figure of the good shepherd is not just a beautiful and inspiring image, but a symbol to reveal three important insights about Jesus’ identity and mission in the world, and of course, His relationship to the believers. We can analyse three characteristics:
The first characteristic of the good shepherd highlighted in today’s passage is Jesus’ willingness to offer His life so that his followers, His “sheep”, may live. Looking to His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus describes Himself as fully committed to those under His care. Such depth of commitment distinguishes Him from the false shepherds who would run away and abandon their flock at the first sight of danger. As the good shepherd, Jesus is prepared to go to the greatest lengths to ensure that His followers will have enduring life. We too as Christians, need to be committed to the Good Shepherd who laid His life for us. We need to recognise Him and be committed both to the Lord and our neighbours.
The second characteristic revealed by today’s passage is the bond of mutual knowledge between God, Jesus, and the believers. “I know my own (sheep) and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father”. This “web” of mutual knowing reflects the bond which Jesus establishes between God and the faithful. As Christians, we are the faithful. The biblical concept of “knowing” does not imply theoretical or abstract knowledge. In the language of the Scripture, “to know” means to share in someone’s identity; to know is to be like the one known. St. John emphasizes that the disciples know God through Jesus.
By establishing such communion, Jesus makes the believers sharers in God’s own life. We too as Christians, are the shares of the divine communion. This sharing of the divine life makes Jesus the Good Shepherd indeed. As the sheep, have we made a mutual bond with the Good Shepherd? If not, we have an invitation today, we are being invited to make a mutual relationship with God: we will pray very well if we know God because we will have a mutual knowledge which makes us true children of God.
Third and last, we can note that Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd speaks of His resurrection. The resurrection was the ultimate purpose of His sacrificial death and His mission in the world. In the resurrection, Jesus overcame the power of death ensuring that His followers, His “sheep” will have life in abundance, unending and permanent life in God’s presence. As children of God and as sheep, we need to be happy because the Good Shepherd has given us life in abundance. What else do we need in this life if is not peace and having life in abundance? The Good Shepherd has given life in abundance.
An exercise of being a truly good shepherd is being emphasised in the first reading which contains the defence speech of Peter, delivered before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:8–12). The Sanhedrin was a Jewish governing council concerned with the administrative and religious affairs of Jews living in Jerusalem and Judea. This speech follows the one Peter delivered to the crowd in the Temple after the healing of a lame man. In the aftermath of this healing, Peter and John were arrested by the authorities.
Sometimes, this happens in our Christian daily living life that we are arrested for doing good. Nevertheless, their appearance before the Sanhedrin would present an opportunity for the two apostles to bear witness to the Risen Lord before the “rulers of the people and elders”. These Jewish authorities challenged the apostles with the question, “by what power or by what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:7). Today’s reading contains a part of Peter’s response.
Peter speaks, guided by the Holy Spirit, in fulfilment of the words of Jesus who promised the Spirit’s guidance in precisely such situations (Luke 12:11-12). Skilfully appealing to the act of healing, Peter declares that Jesus, who was crucified and raised by God, is, in fact, the long-awaited saviour. In Greek, the word for “healing” also means “salvation”. Salvation is nothing else but the ultimate healing of humanity afflicted by sin and death. In His death and resurrection, Jesus, in fulfilment of the words of Psalm 118:22, became the cornerstone of the new life, healed, and restored. The physical healing of the lame man became the testimony and sign of the final salvation which Jesus offers.
This is the message Peter boldly proclaimed before the leaders and before “all Israel”. With this declaration and the one made in Peter’s earlier speech in the Temple, the message that salvation is found “in the name of Jesus Christ” became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The expression, “in the name of Jesus Christ”, implies that a person enters an intimate union with Jesus Christ through faith. Such a union leads to eternal salvation. As Christians, we need both spiritual and physical healing, in the name of Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd, may we all be healed and yearn for eternal life.
Christian Act in Word of God “As Christians, we are called to be good Christians as Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd”
Three points we can learn from the biblical readings of today for us Christians. First, we need to recognise and accept that as Christians we are children of God and He loves us. Hence, we need to emulate the same love to our family members, our friends, our enemies and our neighbours.
Second, Jesus was rejected, it is normal to be rejected and the graces of God will protect you until the mission is accomplished, are we not rejecting other people today ourselves? Or are we not the rejected one ourselves? In life, we need to accept rejection with hope and love because God will restore us for higher heights than those who reject us.
Third, Jesus Christ is calling us to be good Christians. Jesus Christ himself is the Good Shepherd and we as Christians who are followers of Christ, are we good sheep? In today’s celebration of Good Shepherd Sunday, all Christians, we are invited to be good Christians not just mere Christians as Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd, not just a shepherd.
Today’s Scriptural readings highlight the theme of Good Shepherd and that God’s love for humanity has been given by the laying down of His Son’s life for us. His mission was to save humanity. God’s intention was to bring the faithful to eternal union with Himself so that we can “see God as God truly is”. As the good shepherd, He laid down His life for His followers in order to defeat death. As the faithful, we need to be aware that God through Jesus Christ drew us into this salvific union, we can rightfully utter the prayer of thanksgiving with the words of the Psalmist, “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
Action: I want to be a good Christian as I follow the Good Shepherd. I will establish a mutual bond with the Good Shepherd and listen to the Words of the Shepherd all time. As a Vocation Sunday, I will make a good choice for the way of life I want to live either in married life or priestly life or religious life (brother or sister) or individual life. If I have already chosen the way of life, then, I will faithfully commit fully myself to the life I have chosen.
Prayer: Almighty Father, we thank You for the gift of life and for making us your children. You sent Your only-begotten Son who is a Good Shepherd to redeem us, help us to be Good Christians not just mere Christians. Loving God make us Christ-like and open our hearts to have a mutual bond with the Good Shepherd as He laid His life for us. We ask for physical and spiritual healing in our lives from the Good Shepherd who was rejected by the builders but became a cornerstone of our salvation, help us Lord not to reject others in our life, we ask this through the Risen Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You in the Unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever, Amen.
Please support The Southern Cross
Your support means we can keep Catholic news alive so that many others will have free access to the high-quality, trustworthy news they deserve. We seek your support not simply to survive, but to grow in our mandate to share the Good News and keep you informed about your Church and Catholic faith.
Every contribution, however big or small, makes a difference. Support us today – it only takes a minute. Thank you.
- God is Love: 6th Sunday of Easter - May 8, 2021
- True Discipleship: Fruition in Truth and Action – 5th Sunday of Easter - May 1, 2021
- The Good Shepherd Lays His Life Down for His Sheep: 4th Sunday of Easter - April 24, 2021