May 3: Fourth Sunday of Easter. Readings: 1. Acts 2:14.36-41; Psalm: 23; 2. 1 Peter 2:20-25; Gospel: John 10:1-10.
These readings have an air of authority about them. In each one, that authority manifests itself through the message voiced by the key figure’s words.
So in Acts, Peter commands the attention of his audience. He directs his message to the residents of Judea and Jerusalem – that is, to his own people. And what he says champions the crucified Jesus as their Messiah and Lord. His call to join the newly-formed faith community is issued so that they might accept his words as a universal message of salvation.
Their dramatic response confirms that the Good News he preaches has genuine depth and sway.
Peter’s voice is also to the fore in 1 Peter today. This time, though, his words are addressed to a situation of difficulty for the early Church. It is a time which calls for stamina, so that faith in Christ’s example may inspire even greater faith. And that is an encouragement given in order to bind together a flock of believers who have a shepherd whose extraordinary sacrifice gives confidence and assurance of communal well-being.
In John, Jesus’ own words speak of the shepherd and his sheep. This serves to cap off the Liturgy of the Word with a seal of lordly authority. Jesus and his words are therefore to be held in high regard. By adding his testimony to the relationship he has forged with his community of followers, his down-to-earth figure of speech makes a big impression. The image of the shepherd with his sheep summons up a keen awareness of being called into what John elsewhere indicates is eternal life.
This set of readings offers us a sharply focused insight into what we believe ourselves to be as a Church that remembers and celebrates its identity, being a people protected and guided by a divine shepherd.
FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER First reading: Acts 2: 14, 36-41.
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them, “You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem. Let this be known to you, and listen to my words. Therefore, let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, 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 baptised, 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 baptised, and about three thousand persons were added that day.
Second reading: 1 Peter 2:20-25.
But what credit is there if you are patient when beaten for doing wrong? But 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.
Gospel: John 10: 1-10.
“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 he 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 recognise his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognise the voice of strangers.” Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realise 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.”