Acts of the Apostles 2:14a,36-41
Peter and the other apostles baptize 3,000 people.
The Lord is my shepherd.
1 Peter 2:20b-25
We have been healed by the wounds of Christ.
Jesus is the gate for his sheep.
Gospel JN 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 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.
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