Thứ Bảy, 6 tháng 5, 2017

MAY 07, 2017 : FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

Fourth Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 49

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven,
raised his voice, and proclaimed:
"Let the whole house of Israel know for certain
that God has made both Lord and Christ,
this Jesus whom you crucified."

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart,
and they asked Peter and the other apostles,
"What are we to do, my brothers?"
Peter said to them,
"Repent and be baptized, every one of you,
in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins;
and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
For the promise is made to you and to your children
and to all those far off,
whomever the Lord our God will call."
He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them,
"Save yourselves from this corrupt generation."
Those who accepted his message were baptized,
and about three thousand persons were added that day.

Responsorial PsalmPS 23: 1-3A, 3B4, 5, 6
R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He guides me in right paths
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side.
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
or:
R. Alleluia.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows. 
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 21 PT 2:20B-25
Beloved:
If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good,
this is a grace before God.
For to this you have been called,
because Christ also suffered for you,
leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.
He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.

When he was insulted, he returned no insult;
when he suffered, he did not threaten;
instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly.
He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross,
so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.
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.

AlleluiaJN 10:14
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord;
I know my sheep, and mine know me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelJN 10:1-10
Jesus said:
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate
but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.
But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice,
as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
When he has driven out all his own,
he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him,
because they recognize his voice.
But they will not follow a stranger;
they will run away from him,
because they do not recognize the voice of strangers."
Although Jesus used this figure of speech,
the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them.

So Jesus said again, "Amen, amen, I say to you,
I am the gate for the sheep.
All who came before me are thieves and robbers,
but the sheep did not listen to them.
I am the gate.
Whoever enters through me will be saved,
and will come in and go out and find pasture.
A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy;
I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly."


4th Sunday of Easter – Cycle A
(Good Shepherd Sunday)


Note: Where a Scripture text is underlined in the body of this discussion, it is recommended that the reader look up and read that passage.

1st Reading - Acts 2:14, 36B41

Today we continue with Peter’s address to the people on the Day of Pentecost – an address we began to hear last week. This address proclaims that Jesus of Nazareth, whom the Jews crucified, is the Messiah promised by God and eagerly awaited by the righteous of the Old Testament; it is He who has affected God’s saving plan for mankind.

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them,

Recall last week and again notice the change worked in Peter by the Holy Spirit: He preaches boldly whereas only some 50 days earlier he had trembled at the words of a servant girl. Peter is speaking for all the apostles.

“You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem. Let this be known to you, and listen to my words. 36 Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain

The “ingathering of Israel” has reached a decisive pass, and that Israel which now remains obstinate in rejecting Jesus will have lost its claim to the honorific title and status of God’s people.

that God has made him both Lord and Messiah,

This sums up our reading of last week, all the events and actions involving Jesus were the result of divine intervention because of God’s plan for His people.  This summation perfectly coordinates the Lordship testimonies of Joel 3 and Psalm 110 with the Messianic argument of Psalm 16. These presentations were made by Peter to the crowd in Acts 2:32-35 which occurs between last week’s reading and this one.

this Jesus whom you crucified.”

This is not a condemnation of the Jews – Peter has already stated in his address (Acts 2: 23) “This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him”. They were instruments of God’s will and decree; a part of His plan.

37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart,

Peter’s words, the instrument used by God’s grace, have moved the hearts of His listeners.  and they asked Peter and the other apostles, “What are we to do, my brothers?” 38 Peter (said) to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you,

To repent is to turn away from sin (the rejection of Jesus as Messiah in the case of the Jews, idol worship in the case of pagans). Repentance is a positive concept, a change of mind and heart toward God reflected in the actual goodness of one’s life. It is in accord with the apostolic teaching derived from Jesus (Acts 2:24). Baptism results in the forgiveness of sins and the reception of the Holy Spirit. Luke presents baptism in Acts as the expected response to the apostolic preaching about Jesus and associates it with the conferring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5; 10:44-48; 11:16).

in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit.

This does not necessarily mean that this was the form of words which the Apostles used in the baptismal liturgy, rather than the Trinitarian form prescribed by Jesus in Matthew 28:19. The expression “baptized in the name of Christ” means becoming a member of Christ, becoming a Christian.

39 For the promise is made to you and to your children

The promise of the forgiveness of sins and the reception of the Holy Spirit was made in the first instance to the Jews: it is they to whom God entrusted His oracles; theirs was the privilege to receive the Old Testament and to be preached to directly by Jesus Himself.

and to all those far off,

The Gentiles

whomever the Lord our God will call.” 40 He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

Not only that part of the Jewish People who rejected Christ and His teaching, but everyone who is estranged from God.

41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.

At the sin of the golden calf, when the priesthood of the family was abolished in favor of the Levitical priesthood, three thousand were slain (Exodus 32:28) – now the Levitical priesthood is abolished and the priesthood of the family of God is instituted and three thousand are added to that family.

2nd Reading – 1 Peter 2:20b-25

In last week’s epistle reading we heard Peter’s call to be holy because we have been redeemed, not with money like the Old Testament sacrifice, but by the Blood of Christ; the one perfect sacrifice which could open heaven and make it possible for us to have our sins forgiven and forgotten. Today’s reading comes from the section of Peter’s letter concerning the behavior of Christian slaves. Neither Peter nor Paul, even though they were apostles in the just emerging Christian Church, tried to put an end to the institution of slavery. They aimed instead at giving slavery a Christian meaning and making it a part of one’s spiritual being. Our reading today is commonly understood to be part of a primitive Christian hymn based on Isaiah 53:4-12.

20b But if you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God.

To put this verse in context, we must read the preceding two and one-half verses: “18 Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and equitable but also to those who are perverse. 19 For whenever anyone bears the pain of unjust suffering because of consciousness of God, that is a grace. 20a But what credit is there if you are patient when beaten for doing wrong?”

21    For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.

Not following in His footsteps to slavery, but to the patient suffering of unjust wrongs, for Christ provided us all a perfect example of this.

“Be sure to note carefully the extent to which Peter beholds glory even in the state of slavery, by saying that those who do well and are blameless but who are beaten by cruel and dishonest masters, are following in the footsteps of Christ, who suffered unjustly on our behalf. That is something to rejoice about!” [Saint Bede the Venerable (ca. A.D. 416), On 1 Peter]

22    “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

This begins the hymn referred to in the introduction (read Isaiah 53:4-12).

23    When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross,

Literally, “... to the wood”. “Wood” or “tree” is a very early term for the cross. Christ carried the sins of men up to the cross in His body, undergoing the “curse” for them. The “curse” is the result of breaking the covenant with God. Adam and Eve had broken their covenant with God; the Israelites, at Mount Sinai, had broken their covenant with God and had brought the “curse” upon themselves and their descendants. It was on the cross that Jesus fulfilled the role of the suffering servant (see Galatians 3:13; Deuteronomy 21:23). 2nd Corinthians 5:21 says “For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” Christ is acknowledged as sinless (verse 22 of our reading today; Hebrews 4:15) yet through God’s choice He came to stand in that relation to God which is normally the result of sin – He became part of a sinful humanity so that His sacrifice would open heaven and allow our sins to be forgiven (see Romans 6:10-12).

“Christ was nailed to the cross, paying the penalty not for His own sins but paying the debt of our nature. For our nature was in debt after transgressing the laws of its maker. And since it was in debt and unable to pay, the Creator Himself in His wisdom devised a way of paying the debt. By taking a human body as capital, He invested it wisely and justly in paying the debt and thereby freeing human nature.” [Theodoret of Cyr (ca. A.D. 430), On Divine Providence, 10,26]

so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

The familiar shepherd and flock figures express the care, vigilance, and love of God for His people in the Old Testament [Psalm 23 (our Responsorial Psalm); Isaiah 40:11; Jeremiah 23:4-5; Ezekiel 34:11-16] and of Jesus for all humanity in the New Testament [Matthew 18:10-14; Luke 15:4-7; John 10:1-16 (our gospel reading); Hebrews 13:20].

Gospel - John 10:1-10

Today’s reading takes place about four months before Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection. This discourse appears immediately after Jesus’ healing of the man blind from birth (4th Sunday in Lent, Cycle A). Recall that at the end of that story, Jesus was addressing the Pharisees who didn’t think they were blind – He still addresses the Pharisees.

1 “Amen, amen, I say to you,

The doubled Amen, when used in John, is an indication that a very grave matter is being discussed – a matter of life and death.

whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. 2 But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice,

The gatekeeper of the fold and the sheep can easily distinguish the genuine shepherd from the intruder.

as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

This method of herding sheep is still in use in Palestine today. Rather than being driven, the sheep are led by the shepherd.

4 When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. 5 But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”

All the sheep of the village were kept in a common fold. Each shepherd would call out his own sheep and lead them away to pasture. The sheep would not respond to anyone but their own shepherd so there was no danger in mixing the flocks at night. The Pharisees do not recognize Jesus, but the people of God, symbolized by the man born blind (John 9:1-41, 4th Sunday in Lent, Cycle A), do.

6    Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them.

The Pharisees do not recognize Jesus, but the people of God, symbolized by the man born blind [John 9:1-41 (4th Sunday in Lent, Cycle A)], do.

7    So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.

In the first part of this reading, Jesus identified Himself as the true shepherd of God’s sheep. Now, He identifies Himself with the gate of the sheepfold. He is applying the significance of the gate as put forth in the first verse of our reading today. Those who have come to the fold through Him, the apostles and their successors, are legitimate shepherds.

8    All who came (before me) are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.

Jesus is not condemning the leaders of God’s people appointed in the Old Testament. They were not “before” Him since they were part of the descent from God of which He is the ultimate fulfillment. Only those who come in by some way other than the gate are the interlopers and God’s sheep have recognized them as such.

9    I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.

Just as the sheep and legitimate shepherds enter the fold only through the gate, so entry is gained into God’s fold, God’s pasture, only through Jesus the Christ.

10    A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy;

Ezekiel 34 castigates the leaders of the people as bad shepherds who fatten themselves at the cost of the sheep.

I came so that they might have life

John 1:4 says “through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race”.

and have it more abundantly.

John 1:16 says “From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace”.

St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Picayune, MS http://www.scborromeo.org


Meditation: "I came that they may have life abundantly"
Do you know the peace and security of the Good Shepherd who watches over his own? The Old Testament often speaks of God as shepherd of his people, Israel. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want (Psalm 23:1). Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! (Psalm 80:1) We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture (Psalm 100:3). The Messiah is also pictured as the shepherd of God's people: He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms (Isaiah 40:11). Jesus says he is the Good Shepherd who will risk his life to seek out and save the stray sheep (Matthew 18:12, Luke 15:4). He is the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (1 Peter 2:25).
The Good Shepherd and Guardian of our souls
What can shepherding teach us about God and our relationship with him? At the end of each day the shepherd brought his sheep into shelter. They knew the voice of their shepherd and came at his beckoning. So familiar was the shepherd and his sheep, that each was called by a distinct name. In the winter the sheep were usually brought to a communal village shelter which was locked and kept secure by a guardian. In the summer months the sheep were usually kept out in the fields and then gathered into a fold at night which was guarded by a shepherd throughout the night. He was literally the door through which the sheep had to pass.
The Scriptures describe God as a shepherd who brings security and peace to his people. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and for evermore (Psalm 120:8). Even the leaders of God's people are called shepherds: they shall lead them out and bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep which have no shepherd (Numbers 27:17). Just as a shepherd kept watch over his sheep and protected them from danger, so Jesus stands watch over his people as the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (1 Peter 2:25). Do you know the peace and security of a life fully submitted to God?
Jesus willingly laid down his life for us - the sheep he ransomed with his own blood  
St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) writes: "He has accomplished what he taught us: He has shown us what He commanded us to do. He laid down his own life for his sheep, that within our mystery he might change his body and blood into food, and nourish the sheep he had redeemed with the food of his own flesh. He has shown us the way we must follow, despite fear of death. He has laid down the pattern to which we must conform ourselves. The first duty laid on us is to use our material goods in mercy for the needs of his sheep, and then, if necessary, give even our lives for them. He that will not give of his substance for his sheep, how shall he lay down his life for them?"
 (Tr. 46 in John). Do you look to Jesus the Good Shepherd, to receive the strength and courage you need to live and serve as his disciple?
 "Lord Jesus, you always lead me in the way of true peace and safety. May I never doubt your care nor stray from your ways. Keep me safe in the shelter of your presence."
Daily Quote from the early church fathersGreen pastures and still waters, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.
"The pastures that this good shepherd has prepared for you, in which he has settled you for you to take your fill, are not various kinds of grasses and green things, among which some are sweet to the taste, some extremely bitter, which as the seasons succeed one another are sometimes there and sometimes not. Your pastures are the words of God and his commandments, and they have all been sown as sweet grasses. These pastures had been tasted by that man who said to God, 'How sweet are your words to my palate, more so than honey and the honeycomb in my mouth!'" (excerpt from Sermon 366,3,1)

FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
SUNDAY, MAY 7, JOHN 10:1-10

(Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:20b-25)

KEY VERSE: "I came that they might have life and have it to the full" (v.10).
TO KNOW: The figure of God as a shepherd who guides and protects the flock was taken from Israel's pastoral life. Sheep that belonged to various shepherds were brought together in a sheepfold at night. At daybreak, the watchman would open the gate. The shepherd knew his own sheep and he would call each one by name as he led them out of the sheepfold. The sheep recognized the shepherd's voice and would follow no one else. The shepherd would walk ahead of his flock as they followed him to a place where they would be safe from thieves who might come to "steal and slaughter and destroy" (v.10). Jesus is the "gate for the sheep" (v.7). Those who enter through him will be saved.
TO LOVE: Do I pray for the Pope, my bishop and Pastor who shepherd God's people?
TO SERVE: Risen Lord, help me to follow you as you guide me day by day.

NOTE: Good Shepherd Sunday
The Fourth Sunday of Easter is referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday. In John 21:15-18, Jesus makes Peter the chief shepherd of the flock. This day was designated in 1964 as the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. In his Easter message Pope Francis I declared: "
The Risen Shepherd goes in search of all those lost in the labyrinths of loneliness and marginalization. He comes to meet them through our brothers and sisters who treat them with respect and kindness, and help them to hear his voice, an unforgettable voice, a voice calling them back to friendship with God." The Church's sanctity depends essentially on her union with Christ and her openness to the mystery of grace at work in the hearts of believers.


Sunday 7 May 2017

4th Sunday of Easter. W. Week VI Psalter.
Acts 2:14, 36-41. Psalms 22(23):1-6. 1 Peter 2:20-25. John 10:1-10.
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want — Psalms 22(23):1-6. 1 Peter 2:20-25. John 10:1-10.
‘You had gone astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your soul.’
Not many of us experience the life of a shepherd, but Jesus used this metaphor to indicate vigilant care and attention. Also, these readings are a clarion call to eliminate mindlessness from our prayer life. As with sheep, we often lose our way and need some perceptive direction. A spiritual guide knows how to listen and gently advise about new ways to find the Way of Jesus.
The spiritual director knows that Jesus will work within our spirit, when the time is right. Jesus offers himself as guide and guardian for our souls. He is always there, gently prompting us into better decisions and forgiving our mindless choices.
Let us pray the famous psalm with the ultimate life-coach, Jesus, for he will guide us to places of new wisdom.

ST. ROSA VENERINI

On May 7, the Church celebrates the recently-canonized Italian educator Saint Rosa Venerini, who founded Catholic schools for girls and young women during the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

Her work is continued today by the “Venerini Sisters.”

St. Rosa (also known as St. Rose) was declared a saint in 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI, who spoke in his canonization homily of her courageous work for “the spiritual elevation and authentic emancipation of the young women of her time.”

He noted that St. Venerini “did not content herself with providing the girls an adequate education, but she was concerned with assuring their complete formation, with sound references to the Church's doctrinal teaching.”

Born in the central Italian city of Viterbo on February 9, 1656, Rosa Venerini was the daughter of an accomplished doctor, Goffredo, who raised four children with his wife Marzia. At a young age, Rosa vowed to consecrate her life to God, though this resolution was tested during her adolescence.

Rosa briefly joined a Dominican women’s community during 1676, but returned home to comfort her mother after Goffredo’s unexpected death. One of Rosa’s brothers, Domenico, also died at age 27. Marzia was heartbroken and died within months.

In the wake of these family crises, Rosa invited local women to her home to pray the Rosary in a group. However, she was soon dismayed by the deficiencies she saw in their education and religious formation. This eye-opening experience shaped Rosa’s future, pointing her toward her ultimate vocation in the field of teaching.

In 1685, with the help of two friends and the approval of her local bishop, Rosa opened Italy’s first public school for girls. It was supported by some Church and state officials, though others resisted an educational model that was, for its time, unconventional.

Many of these critics were silenced by the school’s clear success in uplifting the character of young women. Rosa left Viterbo and founded ten schools in the Diocese of Montefiascone between 1692 and 1694. She also trained a local successor, the future Saint Lucia Filippini.

Only after several years, and one disappointing failed attempt, did Rosa manage to start a school in Rome, during 1713. Three years later, Pope Clement XI paid a visit accompanied by eight cardinals. Witnessing the work of Rosa Venerini’s teachers, the Pope personally thanked her, declaring: “With these schools you will sanctify Rome.”

The acceptance of Rosa’s work also increased her daily responsibilities. She undertook difficult journeys for the sake of her work, while maintaining a strong prayer life that kept her oriented toward God’s will in all of her undertakings. Spiritual direction from Jesuit priests helped her to combine an active apostolate with a life of contemplative prayer. She cultivated a close daily relationship to God while working to found over 40 schools.

St. Rosa Venerini’s last illness came to an end during the evening of May 7, 1728. Her religious congregation, known in Italian as the “Maistre pie Venerini,” maintains an international presence.


LECTIO DIVINA: 4TH SUNDAY OF EASTER (A)
Lectio Divina: 
 Sunday, May 7, 2017

Jesus, the Good Shepherd
I came that they may have life, and have it to the full!
John 10:1-10
1. OPENING PRAYER
Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us read the Scriptures with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection.
Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.
2. READING
a) A key to the reading:
This Sunday’s Gospel presents us with the familiar image of the Good Shepherd. When speaking of the sheep of God’s flock, Jesus uses several images to describe the attitude of those who look after the flock. The text of the liturgy is taken from verses 1 to 10. In our commentary we add verses 11 to 18 because these contain the image of the “Good Shepherd” and help us better understand the sense of verses 1 to 10. During the reading, try to pay attention to the various images or similes that Jesus uses to present to us the way a true shepherd ought to be.
b) A division of the text as a help to the reading:
The text contains three interrelated similes:
John 10:1-5: The simile of the bandit and the shepherd
John 10:6-10: The simile of the door of the sheepfold
John 10:11-18: The simile of the good shepherd
c) The Text:
1 'In all truth I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a bandit. 2 He who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; 3 the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all those that are his, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice. 5 They will never follow a stranger, but will run away from him because they do not recognise the voice of strangers.' 6 Jesus told them this parable but they failed to understand what he was saying to them. 7 So Jesus spoke to them again: In all truth I tell you, I am the gate of the sheepfold. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and bandits, but the sheep took no notice of them. 9 I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe: such a one will go in and out and will find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.
11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. 12 The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and the sheep do not belong to him, abandons the sheep as soon as he sees a wolf coming, and runs away, and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep; 13 he runs away because he is only a hired man and has no concern for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. 16 And there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and I must lead these too. They too will listen to my voice, and there will be only one flock, one shepherd. 17 The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will, and as I have power to lay it down, so I have power to take it up again; and this is the command I have received from my Father.
3. A MOMENT OF PRAYERFUL SILENCE
so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.
4. SOME QUESTIONS
to help us in our personal reflection.
a) What part of the text most touched you? Why?
b) What images does Jesus apply to himself? How does he do that and what is their significance?
c) In this text, how many times does Jesus use the word life and what does he say about life?
d) Pastor-Pastoral. Do our pastoral actions carry on from the mission of Jesus-Pastor?
e) How can we acquire a clear view of the true Jesus of the Gospels?
5. FOR THOSE WHO WISH TO ENTER DEEPER INTO THE THEME
a) The context within which the Gospel of John was written:
This is a further example of the way John’s Gospel was written and organised. Jesus’ words on the Shepherd (Jn 10:1-18) are like a brick placed in an already built wall. Just before this text, in John 9:40-41, Jesus was speaking the blindness of the Pharisees. Immediately after, in John 10:19-21, we come across the conclusion of the discussion on blindness. Thus, the words concerning the Good Shepherd show how to remove such blindness. This brick renders the wall stronger and more beautiful.
John 10:1-5: The simile of the bandit and the shepherd
Jesus begins his discourse with the simile of the gate: "I tell you most solemnly, I am the gate of the sheepfold. All others who have come are thieves and brigands; but the sheep took no notice of them. I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe!” To understand this simile, we need to remember what comes after. In those days, shepherds took care of the sheep during the day. At night, they brought the sheep into a large sheepfold or common enclosure, well protected against thieves and wolves. All the shepherds within a region brought their flocks there. There was a guard who watched over the flock throughout the night. In the morning the shepherd would come and knock on the gate and the guard would open the gate. The shepherd then called the sheep by name. The sheep recognised the voice of their shepherd and so they got up and followed him to pastures. The sheep of other shepherds would hear the voice, but stayed where they were, because they did not recognise the voice. Every now and then there was the danger of an attack. Thieves went into the sheepfold through a kind of loophole by removing stones from the wall around and stole the sheep. They did not enter by the gate, because the guard was there watching.
John 10:6-10: The simile of the gate of the sheepfold
Those who were listening, the Pharisees, (Jn 9:40-41), could not understand what “entering by the gate” meant. Jesus explains: "I am the gate! All others who have come are thieves and brigands”. To whom do these hard words of Jesus refer? Considering his way of speaking about brigands, he was probably referring to religious leaders who dragged people after them, but did not fulfil their expectations. They were not interested in the welfare of the people, but rather in their money and their own interests. They deceived people and abandoned them to their fate. The basic criterion for discerning between the shepherd and the brigand is the defence of the life of the sheep. Jesus says: “I have come so that they may have life, and have it to the full!” To enter by the gate, means imitating Jesus’ attitude of defending the life of his sheep. Jesus asks people to take the initiative by not following those who pretend to be shepherds and who are not interested in their lives.
John 10:11-15: The simile of the Good Shepherd
Jesus changes the simile. First he was the gate, now he is the shepherd. Everyone knew what a shepherd was like, how he lived and worked. But Jesus is not just any shepherd, he is the good shepherd! The image of the good shepherd comes from the Old TestamentWhen Jesus says that he is the Good Shepherd, he is presenting himself as the one who comes to fulfil the promises of the prophets and hopes of the people. He insists on two points: (a) In defending the life of his sheep, the good shepherd gives his life. (b) In the mutual understanding between shepherd and sheep, the Shepherd knows his sheep and the sheep know their shepherd.
The false shepherd who wants to overcome his blindness, has to confront his own opinion with that of the people. This is what the Pharisees did not do. They looked down on the sheep and called them cursed and ignorant people (Jn 7:49; 9:34). On the other hand, Jesus says that the people have an infallible perception in knowing who is the good shepherd, because they recognise his voice (Jn 10:,4) “My own know me” (Jn 10:14). The Pharisees thought they could discern the things of God with certainty. In truth they were blind.
The discourse on the Good Shepherd includes two important rules for removing pharisaic blindness from our eyes: (a) Shepherds are very attentive to the reaction of the sheep so that they may recognise the voice of the shepherd. (b) The sheep must be very attentive to the attitude of those who call themselves shepherds so as to verify whether they are really interested in the lives of the sheep and whether they are capable of giving their lives for their sheep. What about today’s shepherds?
John 10:16-18: Jesus’ aim: one flock and one shepherd
Jesus opens out the horizon and says that there are other sheep that are not of this sheepfold. They will not hear Jesus’ voice, but when they do, they will realise that he is the Shepherd and will follow him. Here we see the ecumenical attitude of the community of the “Beloved Disciple”.
b) Further comments:
i) The image of the Shepherd in the Bible:
In Palestine, people largely depended on raising sheep and goats for their living. The image of the shepherd who leads his sheep to pasture was well known to all, just as today we all know the image of the driver of a coach or of a train. It was common to use the image of the shepherd to illustrate the function of one who ruled and led the people. The prophets criticised kings because they were shepherds who did not take care of their flock and did not lead the flock to pasture (Jer 2:8; 10:21; 23:1-2). Such criticism of bad shepherds grew in the measure that, through the fault of kings, the people saw themselves dragged into slavery (Ez 34:1-10; Zac 11:4-17).
Before the frustration experienced because of the lack of leadership on the part of the bad shepherds, there grew the desire or the hope of one day having a shepherd who would be really good and sincere and who would be like God in the way of leading his people. Thus the Psalm says, "The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want!" (Ps 23:1-6; Gen 48:15). The prophets hope that, in some future time, God himself would be the shepherd who would lead his flock (Is 40:11; Ez 34:11-16). They also hope that at such a time, the people would be able to recognise the voice of their shepherd: "Listen today to his voice!" (Ps 95:7). They hope that God will come as a Judge to judge the sheep of the flock (Ez 34:17). They wish and hope that one day God will raise good shepherds and that the messiah would be a good shepherd for the people of God. (Jer 3:15; 23:4).
Jesus turns this hope into reality and presents himself as the Good Shepherd, different from the brigands who were despoiling the people. He presents himself as a Judge, who, at the end, will judge as a shepherd who will separate the sheep from the goats (Mt 25:31-46). In Jesus is fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah who says that the good shepherd will be persecuted by the bad shepherds who are disturbed by his denunciations: "I am going to strike the shepherd so that the sheep may be scattered!" (Zec 13:7). Finally Jesus is everything: he is the gate, the shepherd and the lamb!
ii) The community of the Beloved Disciple: open, tolerant and ecumenical:
The communities lying behind the Gospel of John were made up of various groups. Among them there were open-minded Jews with a critical view of the Temple of Jerusalem (Jn 2:13-22) and the law (Jn 7:49-50). There were Samaritans (Jn 4:1-42) and pagans (Jn 12:20) who became converts, both with their historical origins and cultural customs, quite different from those of the Jews. Even though they were made up of such different groups, John’s communities will see the following of Jesus as a concrete lived love in solidarity. By respecting each other’s differences, they will be aware of the problems arising from pagans and Jews living together, problems which troubled other communities at the time (Acts 15:5). Challenged by the realities of their own time, the communities sought to deepen their faith in Jesus, sent by the Father who wishes that all should be brothers and sisters (Jn 15:12-14.17) and who says: "In my Father’s house there are many mansions!” (Jn 14:2). This deepening facilitated dialogue with other groups. Then there were open, tolerant and ecumenical communities (Jn 10:16).
6. PSALM 23 (22)
Yahweh is my shepherd
Yahweh is my shepherd,
I lack nothing.
In grassy meadows he lets me lie.
By tranquil streams he leads me
to restore my spirit.
He guides me in paths of saving justice
as befits his name.
Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death
I should fear no danger,
for you are at my side.
Your staff and your crook are there to soothe me.
You prepare a table for me
under the eyes of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup brims over.
Kindness and faithful love pursue me
every day of my life.
I make my home in the house of Yahweh
for all time to come.
7. FINAL PRAYER
Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practise the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen