Sunday, April 21, 2013

"We are his people, the flock he shepherds" (Ps. 100:3)

Since it is late, I am only going to offer a brief sketch of some thoughts I had for the readings for this Fourth Sunday of Easter, also known as Good Shepherd Sunday, which is also World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

In today's Gospel Jesus says, "My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27). In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul, speaking to those assembled in Pisidian Antioch (as opposed to Syrian Antioch), quotes the Lord: "I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth" (Acts 13:47). Finally, concerning the "great multitude," who stood worshiping "before the throne and before the Lamb" in our reading from Revelation, we learn that "the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Rev. 7:9.17).

From our readings we can discern a dynamic: the Lord calls His followers; His followers hear His voice and respond by following Him; like Paul and Barnabas, they are sent; He leads His flock to green pastures, that is, home to the house of the Father. Only those who follow the Good Shepherd reach their destination.

Detail from the Sarcophagus of the Good Shepherd, Catacomb of Praetextatus, Rome, AD 390s

Especially in today's Gospel and in our reading from Revelation we are reminded of the uncomfortable fact that not everyone the Lord calls hears and not everyone who hears His call responds. Elsewhere the Lord says, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter'" (Matt. 7:21). Jesus came to do the will of the Father. He calls those who the Father has given Him to do the Father's will, which is done in service of establishing the reign, or the kingdom, of God.

An "apostle" is one who is sent. When we profess that the Church is apostolic, we mean it in a twofold sense. First, we refer to apostolic succession. Too often, as Catholics, we stop there. The Church is apostolic in a second, equally important sense, as we are reminded, not only at the end of each Mass, when are dismissed ("Go in peace;" "Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life;" "Go in peace, proclaiming the Gospel of the Lord"), but by the very word "Mass," which comes from the Latin word missa, meaning to be dismissed, or, more accurately, as we see from the dismissals, to be sent.

In our readings today we are able to form a pretty good idea of what it means to "his people, the sheep of his flock" (Ps. 100:3).

No kidding, the rest of this week will be light posting- look for a traditio on Friday, something on Wednesday in honor of the major Rogation day Thursday, 25 April, which is also the Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist. Next weekend I am preaching, look for my homily.

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