Readings for April 29
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Acts 4:8-12; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18
Our Scripture readings for this fourth Sunday of Easter are reminding us of who we are and how God is caring for us. We are children of God. This is not just a name; we really are God’s children, even though the world and sometimes even we do not believe this.
We cannot comprehend how such imperfect people as we could be God’s children. No matter what others and we ourselves may sometimes think, we are most assuredly God’s children, despite our imperfections. And as children we need to be feed, disciplined, taught, and loved. It is important that we remember this so that when God is interacting with us as a parent with a child, we will pay attention.
Our Gospel this week proves how important we are to God. Even though the shepherd is among the earliest depictions of Jesus, the image is becoming ever more remote from the lives of today’s Christians. How many of us really know anything about sheep? All I know is that they are dumb and dirty.
So what is Jesus trying to say? An old Russian proverb states, “Without a shepherd, sheep are not a flock.”
Our culture holds to the popular notion that we all are, essentially, autonomous individuals. We are not to give in to a “herd mentality,” but rather are to seek meaning for ourselves. But human beings will seek a shepherd, even if unwittingly. We strive for freedom and in the process end up going along with the crowd.
Take, for instance, the power of consumerism. Often in contemporary advertising people are told they can “be individuals,” if they will join the masses buying a particular product.
However, like the sheep that so often portray us in the Scriptures, men and women are vulnerable when isolated. While the shepherd knows, cares for, and loves each individual one, the flock is the primary reality to which the shepherd is related.
Remember, Jesus the shepherd goes in search of the one who has strayed to bring them back to the flock. He works to rescue us from our feelings of isolation and worthlessness. He saves us the by love that leads him to sacrifice all and lay down his life for our sake.
We are not religious individuals who are members of community only incidentally. We are one in his Body, the church. This community is a means of grace for all; so it’s the proper arena for the life of faith for the kind of spiritual listening involved in responding to him.
Something that we sometimes miss in this Gospel is the recognition of the shepherd’s voice. Like the sheep, we must be alert and listening for the voice of God in our lives. Our response is dependent upon recognition of the his voice. Many people today, especially the young, claim to be spiritual but not religious. They seek to find God apart from the church. In doing so they are depriving themselves of one of God’s greatest gifts, that of companionship on the spiritual journey.
What about those who never come in contact with the means of grace, who never hear the Gospel? Where is the saving power of God in their lives? It is quite clear in this Gospel that Jesus Christ is shepherd for all the sheep, even those not of his flock. It is Christ’s work to bring these into the fold. This work is carried on in the church’s mission of proclaiming the Gospel in word and action to those who have not heard.
Kathleen Ebner is a member of St. Jude the Apostle Parish in Lewes, where she serves as a spiritual director and catechist.