4th Sunday of Easter, Cycle C
Sunday Church at Home
during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic
Jesus Is the Good Shepherd, We the Sheep of His Flock.
The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:
Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All reply: Amen
Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
All reply: Blessed be God for ever
Leader: Jesus grew up in the countryside, a countryside of hills and valleys where he often observed flocks of sheep with their shepherds. In John’s Gospel he describes himself as a “good shepherd” who talks to his sheep and keeps them safe.
LITURGY OF THE WORD
First Reading: Acts 13:14.43-52
Introduction to the reading: None of the readings at liturgy during the seven-week Easter Season are from the Old Testament. In its place, we read from the Acts of the Apostles to show how the Easter message spread far and wide to all parts of the Mediterranean world. Today, Paul and Barnabas are preaching in what is now central Turkey.
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles
In those days:
Paul and Barnabas passed on from Perga
and came to Antioch of Pisidia.
And on the sabbath day,
they went into the synagogue and sat down.
And many Jews and devout converts to Judaism
followed Paul and Barnabas,
who spoke to them
and urged them to continue in the grace of God.
The next sabbath
almost the whole city gathered together
to hear the word of God.
But when the Jews saw the multitudes,
they were filled with jealousy,
and contradicted what was spoken by Paul,
and reviled him.
And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying,
“It was necessary that the word of God
should be spoken first to you.
Since you thrust it from you,
and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life,
behold, we turn to the Gentiles.
For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,
‘I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation
to the uttermost parts of the earth.’”
And when the Gentiles heard this,
they were glad and glorified the word of God;
and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
And the word of the Lord spread throughout all the region.
But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing
and the leading men of the city,
and stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas,
and drove them out of their district.
But they shook off the dust from their feet against them
and went to Iconium.
And the disciples were filled with joy
and with the Holy Spirit.
The word of the Lord.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 100:1-2.3.5 (R. 3c)
Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm:
R/. We are his people, the sheep of his flock.
Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness.
Come before him, singing for joy.
Know that he, the Lord, is God.
He made us; we belong to him.
We are his people, the sheep of his flock.
Indeed, how good is the Lord,
eternal his merciful love.
He is faithful from age to age.
R/. We are his people, the sheep of his flock.
Second Reading: Revelation 7:9.14b-17
Introduction to the reading: The book of Revelation was not intended to predict actual people and events in future times. The author was concerned only about people and events in his own time and was given no privileged information about the future. In today’s passage, the author encourages people of that time by presenting a vision of God’s people enjoying heavenly life.
A reading from the Book of Revelation
I, John looked, and behold,
a great multitude which no one could number,
from every nation,
from all tribes and peoples and tongues,
standing before the throne and before the Lamb,
clothed in white robes,
with palm branches in their hands,
Then one of the elders said to me,
“These are they who have come out of the great tribulation;
they have washed their robes
and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.Therefore are they before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night within his temple,
and he who sits upon the throne
will shelter them with his presence.They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more;
the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
The word of the Lord.
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord;
I know my own, and my own know me.
Gospel: John 10:27-30
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John.
At that time:
“My sheep hear my voice,
and I know them, and they follow me,
and I give them eternal life,
and they shall never perish,
and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me,
is greater than all,
and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
I and the Father are one.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Reflection on the Readings
The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.
My little dog is called Porthos. I named him after one of the three Musketeers. I estimate that he is about nine years old. As a puppy, he had been badly abused and the effects are still there today. Sudden movements, threatening actions like throwing a stone at him or even chasing him – produce a defensive reaction in him. What I love about him is the endearing way he looks at me and jumps up when asking for a treat.
Dogs in happy homes collapse into a frenzy of delight when you come home, even if you have been gone for fifteen minutes. The new heaven has arrived in their midst, and hysterics are the least they can do. Somewhere there might be a cat who acts like this, but most of them have a different reaction than the heartsick dogs.
Judging from his stories, Jesus paid a lot of attention to animals and to their humans. He watched sheep many times on his trips through the lands and he observed their ways. They were not cat-like or dog-like, or like horses or cattle……but were heartfelt in a different way. The sheep followed their own shepherd because he made them safe, guarded them, and led them to food and drink. Jesus even compared a milling crowd of people to sheep without a shepherd.
In the Jerusalem of Jesus’ day, there was only one sheepfold. Various flocks would arrive, along with their respective shepherds, and all these flocks were funnelled into the one sheepfold. This made for a rather large gathering, and there wasn’t any practice of branding or marking in order to tell one from the other. What’s more, sheep, unlike dogs, do not make themselves joyous when their shepherd walks up.
Then how could each shepherd reclaim his own sheep?
Two ways. One, the shepherd already knew them by heart. He might even have a special name for each character in the flock. And two, the sheep themselves recognized the voice of their master. When he called out, they simply got to their feet and came with him, through the sheep-gate.
Jesus refers to this reaction in Sunday’s short Gospel. ‘My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they [know] me,’ he says. Haven’t you ever craved the voice of someone who would make things right, would lift the burden from your shoulder? Someone who knows you by name and loves you?
Jesus is that someone, he tells you. You shall never perish, he says, and then he steadies you with his hands. The Father has given you to Jesus. Who could revoke that gift?
I am certain you do recognize Jesus’ voice when you hear it. Your feelings move when you listen trustingly to a certain Gospel, for instance. Or when you receive the bread of everlasting life and the cup of salvation not as a stranger might, but as a member of a well-fed and greatly cared for flock.
What about trying, this Sunday, to notice whether your spirit inclines to Jesus? Maybe you will settle into his lap for comfort. Your soul seeks him always, you know. And finds him.
Pope Francis once asked the question: “How do we recognize Jesus’ voice among all the other voices we hear?”
The answer he gave was this: “We can study the whole history of salvation, we can study the whole of Theology, but without the Spirit we cannot understand. It is the Spirit that makes us realize the truth or—in the words of Our Lord—it is the Spirit that makes us know the voice of Jesus.”
(Pope Francis: Humble Prayer is the Key to Discernment. Vatican Radio, April 28, 2015)
Today, the 4th Sunday of Easter is celebrated as the Good Shepherd Sunday. We think of the pastoral love of God, as we also pray for vocations to priesthood on this Word Day of Prayer for Vocations; and we also pray for vocations to the consecrated life.
Each year, for the gospel reading, we hear one part of John 10. This year, being Year C, we listen to the third part of that chapter. Today, Jesus says, I know them and they know me; and I give them eternal life.
Today’s first reading describes how Paul and Barnabas opted to listen to the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd and follow him. But, like their Master, they were also rebuffed and rejected when they tried to share the Good News of salvation. It also suggests that the sympathy of the early Christians for the Gentiles caused a rupture with Judaism.
The second reading, taken from the book of Revelation, depicts Jesus as both the glorified Lamb and the Shepherd. John’s vision encourages his readers with the assurance that every person who has ever followed Christ and led others to him and who has suffered rejection and persecution will also know the unending joy of victory and have a share in everlasting life.
The Gospel text also offers us both comfort and great challenge. The comforting message is that no one can snatch the sheep out of his Father’s hands. The challenge is that pastors and lay people alike should be good shepherds to those entrusted to their care.
It is within the context of family that most vocations are nurtured. The French Jesuit, scientist and philosopher, Teilhard de Chardin, once said,
- “I come from a family where I became who I am. The great majority of my opinions, of my likes and dislikes, of my values and appreciations, of my judgments, my behaviour, my tastes, were moulded by the family I came from.”
For this reason parents remain, and always will remain, the first and most important teachers of the faith to their children. In fulfilling this role they should strive to make prayer, daily family prayer, a natural part of life within the home. By so doing, they will most certainly be sowing the seeds of those vocations which in the providence of God will be necessary to minister to the spiritual needs of the next generation.
Such vocations, however, must also be seen in the context of the whole spiritual life, the spiritual values, the spiritual aspirations of the community in which they are nurtured.
Each one here present can truly say, “as God called the Israelites to be his special people, just so has he called me. So what I do, what I am, concerns other people to as great an extent as it does myself.”
Therefore, on this Good Shepherd Sunday, each one should feel in duty bound to ask God’s blessing, so that generous souls may not be wanting in the apostolic work of teaching and preaching to all nations.
Christ’s instruction to his disciples was quite explicit, “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Mt 9:37).
Today, as we are asked to pray for Vocations, I’m not sure what the future of ministry in the Church will be. There will always be shepherds for the Church but it seems that some of the forms are changing. Currently, women and married men are excluded from the priesthood. As Catholics, we need humility and honesty to reflect on the future of ministry in our church. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will direct people from among the flock, from among the People of God to religious and priestly vocations.
As we soon approach the table of our Good Shepherd today for Holy Communion, let us ask our Lord to lead us to springs of living water, by giving us an experience of a deeper and closer relationship with him personally, and with all our brothers and sisters gathered with us around the altar of the Lord.
From today’s Book of Revelation reading:
“I, John, had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people and tongue.”
In a competing and divided world, the Book of Revelation gives us a vision of our mutuality. We are interdependent; our present and our future are entwined. We cannot live lives of indifference and isolation; not if we plan to go before, “the one who sits on the throne” and be fed together at the same eternal banquet table.
So we ask ourselves:
- Do I share John’s vision of the future unity of all peoples?
- What am I doing to heal divisions that I perceive around me?
- What can I do to promote vocations?
Prayer of the Faithful
We now turn to the Father in prayer, through Jesus Christ the great shepherd of the sheep, confident that he will hear us and respond in love
We pray for God’s blessing on the shepherds of the flock, who bring salvation to the ends of the earth; (pause) for Pope Francis and our bishops, for priests, deacons, religious and laity, and our seminarians.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for all mothers and those who have been like a mother to us: that God will bless and strengthen them and inspire us to greater love by their witness of love and concern.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for young men and women: (pause) that they may be open to the guidance of God as they make important choices in their life, including the vocations of ordination and consecration in the Church.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for communities and parishes of Christians who, in many countries, live in fear and under persecution: (pause) that the Lamb who is on the throne will be their shepherd.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for those among us who are sick, especially those who receive Holy Communion at home; (pause) for all people experiencing problems and difficulties, and for those celebrating special anniversaries of joy and thanksgiving.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for members of our families and friends who have died and those whose anniversaries occur about this time. LORD HEAR US
We pray for Estelle Jacquet who died this week. Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. AMEN
Leader: Let us pray the PRAYER FOR VOCATIONS
You have given me the gift of life,
and the gift of your Holy Spirit.
For these incredible gifts, I thank you.
Help me to use them well.
Deepen within me a desire to do your will.
Help me to hear and answer your call to serve you.
Guide me to the vocation you have chosen for me,
as a loving spouse and parent in the Sacrament of Marriage,
as a single person living a life of generous service,
or through a special call to serve you in Religious Life or the Priesthood.
May your Holy Spirit keep me always close to your Son Jesus,
and help me to say yes to Him
with the gift of my life.
We ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen
We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.
By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.
My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.
Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:
All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Leader: Almighty and ever living God,
lead us to share in the joys of heaven
so that the humble flock
may reach where your brave Shepherd has gone before.
Grant us courage and zeal
in bearing witness before the world
to your Son, Jesus Christ, the firstborn from the dead,
who lives and reigns with you now and always
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.
A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:
Leader: May the God who has redeemed us and made us adopted children
through the resurrection of his only Son
bless us and fill us with joy.
May the God who has bestowed on us
the gifts of redemption and lasting freedom
make us heirs of eternal life.
May the God who joined us to Christ’s resurrection
by faith and baptism
lead us to live justly
and so bring us to our home in heaven.
Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Alleluia. Alleluia.
All: Amen. Alleluia. Alleluia.