Bulletin: April 25, 2021
Fourth Sunday of Easter
There is nothing like belonging. Many of our deepest experiences in life are of the belonging we feel among family or close friends. We may experience belonging within our parish, even saying we are “at home” in our faith community. Sometimes, we say we belong to a school alumni association or social club. Our deepest belonging, however, is in the heart of God. We are God’s children, precious in God’s sight. We are so treasured that Jesus laid down his life for us. Knowing that we belong to God in Jesus Christ gives us a new, eternal perspective on life. Peter understood this when he explained that his healing of the man who had been disabled from birth had been accomplished through Christ. Jesus describes the relationship between him and those who believe in him in intimate terms—we who are in relationship with Christ know that our very lives depend upon him.
THE GOOD SHEPHERD
The difference between the good shepherd and the hired hand is the difference between life and death. Unlike a hired hand who only works for pay and would run away at the first sign of difficulty, Jesus is a good shepherd who willingly lays down his life for his sheep. The good shepherd draws the sheep near to him. They belong to him—not as a possession that can be discarded, but as precious ones who are assured that they can rely on his care and protection. The sheep owe their very lives to the shepherd. Without him, they will be scattered and left on their own in what is often a dangerous world.
BECOMING GOOD SHEEP
No sheep with any sense would wander off and leave the fold. The shepherd provides food and safety. Away from the fold, the sheep risks death in the jaws of wolves or starvation in the desert. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and invites us to be good sheep. Jesus has experienced the best and the worst of all that life has in store. He has known the simple joys and the deep disappointments of life; he has known temptation, anxiety, and fatigue. Jesus walks ahead of us, leading the way. We may be tempted to wander away, lured by temporary pleasures and tempted by the illusion of something better over the horizon. In the noise of daily life, surrounded by messages that compete with God and God’s ways, it is easy to become distracted from what is important and lasting. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, invites us to be good sheep who are so close to him that we hear and recognize his voice. As good sheep, we are called to follow the voice of the Shepherd, trusting that he will guide us to the best pasture, where we can thrive.