Sixth Sunday of Easter, Cycle A May 17, 2020

First Reading
Acts of the Apostles 8:5-8,14-17
The people of Samaria accept the Gospel of Jesus proclaimed to them by Philip.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 66:1-7,16,20
Sing praise to God, all the earth.

Second Reading
1 Peter 3:15-18
Be ready to give explanation for your hope in Christ.

Gospel Reading
John 14:15-21
Jesus promises his disciples that he will send them another advocate, the Spirit of truth.

Gospel JN 14:15-21

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.

But you know him, because he remains with you,
and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
In a little while the world will no longer see me,
but you will see me, because I live and you will live.

On that day you will realize that I am in my Father
and you are in me and I in you.
Whoever has my commandments and observes them
is the one who loves me.
And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” 

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today’s Gospel is a continuation of last week’s Gospel: Jesus is speaking to his disciples at the Last Supper. In today’s reading Jesus offers encouragement to his disciples, who will soon see him crucified. He reassures them that even though he will leave them, he will not abandon them. Instead he will send them the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, through whom the disciples will continue to live in union with Jesus.

Jesus uses the term Advocate to describe the Holy Spirit, whom the disciples will receive. Another word used to describe the Holy Spirit is Paraclete, a legal term meaning “one who offers defense for another.” Note that Jesus says that he will send “another Advocate.” Jesus himself is the first advocate, interceding for his disciples with the Father.

In today’s reading Jesus contrasts his impending departure with the permanence of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus will leave to return to the Father, but the Holy Spirit will remain with the disciples.

Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, the disciples will come to know and appreciate the unity of the Son and the Father. They will also understand that they too participate in the communion between the Father and the Son: “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you” (John 14:20).

Today’s reading is one example of the contrast that John’s Gospel presents between the community of disciples, to whom God will reveal himself, and the unbelieving world, which will remain in darkness. The unbelieving world cannot accept the “Spirit of truth,” whom the disciples will receive. Only through the Spirit will God’s revelation and love be known.

Family Connection

The mystery of the Trinity can be difficult for us to grasp. Today’s Gospel invites us to consider how the three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit— work together so that God’s salvation is made known to us. Jesus’ mission is continued through the activity of the Holy Spirit in the lives of his disciples. We have received this same Spirit through our Baptisms. The Spirit, living and working within us, reveals the mystery of God’s love for us. Just as the first disciples were not left orphaned, we are not orphaned; we remain in God’s embrace through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Gather your family and invite each family member to say what he or she knows about the Holy Spirit. Read aloud today’s Gospel, John 14:15-21. What does Jesus say the Holy Spirit will do for the disciples? Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we come to share in the love of God made known to us in Jesus. Pray together, thanking God for this gift of the Holy Spirit by praying the Prayer to the Holy Spirit.

Sources: Loyola Press; Sunday Readings

Fourth Sunday of Easter, Cycle A May 3, 2020

First Reading
Acts of the Apostles 2:14a,36-41
Peter and the other apostles baptize 3,000 people.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 23:1-6
The Lord is my shepherd.

Second Reading
1 Peter 2:20b-25
We have been healed by the wounds of Christ.

Gospel Reading
John 10:1-10
Jesus is the gate for his sheep.

Gospel JN 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.”

Background on the Gospel Reading

This fourth Sunday of the Easter season is sometimes called Good Shepherd Sunday because in each of the three lectionary cycles, the Gospel reading invites us to reflect on Jesus as the Good Shepherd. In each cycle the reading is from the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel. This chapter sets the framework for Jesus’ teaching about himself as the Good Shepherd.

Today’s reading falls between the stories of Jesus’ healing of the man born blind and the raising of Lazarus. Both of these stories were proclaimed in the Gospels found in this year’s season of Lent. Following the controversy that ensued when Jesus healed the man born blind, Jesus directs his allegory about the sheep and the shepherd toward the Jewish religious leaders of his time, the Pharisees.

Throughout John’s Gospel the Pharisees fail to accept Jesus’ ministry and teaching. They show themselves to be “robbers and thieves” because they try to lead the sheep without entering through the gate, Jesus. Through these metaphors, Jesus is telling his listeners that those who follow him and his way will find abundant life. He identifies himself both as the shepherd and the gate. The shepherds who are faithful to him are the ones whom the sheep (Jesus’ disciples) should follow.

The relationship between the sheep and their shepherd is based on familiarity. Sheep recognize their shepherd and will not follow a stranger. At the end of the day, shepherds lead their sheep from pastures to a common gated area called a sheepfold. There, one shepherd protects all of the sheep until the next day when each shepherd returns to lead his own sheep to pasture. As shepherds move among the sheep, the sheep follow only their shepherd.

Today’s Gospel also gives us the opportunity to reflect on Christian leadership. Jesus’ words suggest to us that those who will lead the Christian community will be known by their faithfulness to Jesus. The leaders will recognize that Jesus is the gate for all of the sheep and that having a good relationship with Jesus is the primary characteristic of a Christian leader. Jesus’ allegory also suggests that faithful Christian leadership requires a good relationship with the community: the shepherd knows his sheep, and they know him. Christian leaders follow the example of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, by being faithful to him and by being a good shepherd.

Family Connection

Even though we have less experience with sheep and shepherds today in our society, we can still identify strongly with the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd and as the gate for the sheep. Psalm 23 remains a popular and favorite psalm for prayer. In the image of the Good Shepherd, we know ourselves to be protected and cared for by a loving God.

As your family gathers, ask what each person knows about sheep and shepherds. Recall that shepherds and sheep have a close relationship. Sheep will only follow their own shepherd; they recognize his voice and will not follow a stranger. The shepherd’s job is to protect his sheep. In some ways, the relationship between the shepherd and his sheep is like that of a parent and child. Read together this Sunday’s Gospel, John 10:1-10. Talk about how Jesus tells us that he is the gate for the sheep. The sheep enter the protection of the sheepfold through the gate. In Jesus we find protection and abundant life. Conclude by thanking Jesus for being our Good Shepherd and by praying today’s psalm, Psalm 23.

Sources: Loyola Press; Sunday Readings