Fourth Sunday of Easter
Sunday Church at Home

during the Coronavirus Pandemic

 

 

The Good Shepherd is One Who Lays Down His Life.

The 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, our good shepherd, invites each one of us to know and to follow him more closely. Today is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, on which we pray especially for vocations to the priestly, the religious and the consecrated life.

 

LITURGY OF THE WORD

 

First Reading: Acts 4:8-12

 

Introduction to the reading: Early in the Acts of the Apostles, Peter and John healed a lame man who sat begging each day at the temple gate. This miracle led to their arrest, and they were brought before the Sanhedrin. In today’s passage, we hear Peter speaking boldly about Jesus to these Jewish leaders. In these few sentences, Peter presents the very heart of the Christian message.

 

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles

In those days:
Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said,
“Rulers of the people and elders,
if we are being examined today
concerning a good deed done to a cripple,
by what means this man has been healed,
be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel,
that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,
whom you crucified,
whom God raised from the dead,
by him this man is standing before you well.
This is the stone which was rejected by you builders,
but which has become the cornerstone.
And there is salvation in no one else,
for there is no other name under heaven given among humankind
by which we must be saved.”

The word of the Lord.

 

 

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28-29 (R. 22)

Let us pray the Responsorial Psalm:

R/. The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.

Give praise to the Lord, for he is good;
his mercy endures forever
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in man;
it is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in princes.

I will thank you, for you have answered,
and you are my saviour.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the Lord has this been done,
a marvel in our eyes.

Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
You are my God, I praise you;
My God, I exult you.
Give praise to the Lord, for he is good;
his mercy endures for ever!

R/. The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.

 

Second Reading: 1 John 3:1-2

Introduction to the reading: During this Easter Season, we are reading from the first letter of John. Today’s passage reminds us about something both John and Paul emphasized: Jesus has made it possible for us to be God’s sons and daughters, not just in some future life, but here and now.

 

A reading from the first Letter of Saint John

Beloved:
See what love the Father has given us,
that we should be called children of God;
and so we are.
The reason why the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
it does not yet appear what we shall be,
but we know that when he appears we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.

The word of the Lord.

 

Alleluia. Alleluia.
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord; I know my own, and my own know me.

Alleluia.

 

Gospel: John 10:11-18

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John

At that time:
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
He who is a hireling and not a shepherd,
whose own the sheep are not,
sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees;
and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
He flees because he is a hireling
and cares nothing for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd;
I know my own and my own know me,
as the Father knows me, and I know the Father;
and I lay down my life for the sheep.
And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold;
I must bring them also,
and they will heed my voice.
So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.
For this reason, the Father loves me,
because I lay down my life, that I may take it again.
No one takes it from me,
but I lay it down of my own accord.
I have power to lay it down,
and I have power to take it again;
this charge I have received from my Father.”

The Gospel of the Lord

 

Reflection on the Readings

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

 

Homily from Fr Keith

Many years ago, when I was a youngster – I not only used to swim, I used to do life saving as well. This was in Carletonville – far away from the sea. We used to do still water life saving – in swimming pools, rivers and dams. Every year we would strive to be selected for our provincial team to go to the national championships. To be eligible we had to do our life saving badges where we learnt about CPR, rescue techniques and things like that. At life saving competitions we had events like ball throw, 200m obstacle swim, and mannikin rescue (my best event). We also had to be life guards at pools and dams. In all my years of life saving, I never once had to pull someone out of the water.

I never had to put my life on the line.

Five times in today’s brief passage Jesus says he “lays down his life” for us. He is ready and willing to give his life for his sheep. His sheep are threatened and he chooses not to be a bystander, but to confront death and save them.

If we are to be Jesus’ followers then we can not be bystanders when others are in need. Salvation is not just about me and my prayer life. We are a community and care of those in need is not just a job of a few professionals. We want to follow the example of Jesus. We can follow his example because we have been given the gist of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus asks us to be willing to give of our lives to serve others. We are not to be like the “hireling or hired hand” who flees when danger threatens others.

One of the “gifts” coming out of this pandemic is the extraordinary sacrifices and gestures of hospitality shown to those in need by their neighbours. Strangers have become friends because they have reached out beyond the usual confines of their private lives. That what Jesus encourages us to do – as he did – lay down our lives for others. After all, Jesus did not just offer his life as an example for us. His freely-chosen death also released us from our selfishness and privacy to do, in some way, what he did for others.

Jesus was not just a victim of harsh political and religious institutions, or circumstances beyond his control. Jesus death was not just an accident because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was willing to give obedience to God’s will, and he was still free to lay down his life – or not. Because of Jesus we also live in willing obedience to God’s will.

Living in obedience to God’s will does not mean I want God to make my decisions for me. I make the choices in my life. God’s will for me is that my choices should lead me to eternal life with God in heaven.  In Jesus we have a shepherd who knows each of us by name and loves us now, despite our bad choices. Jesus has willingly embraced each of us by laying down his life, taking it up again and sharing his risen life with us through his Spirit.

In the first reading today, Peter and John are defending their faith in the resurrected Christ before the religious authorities. They had healed a beggar at the gate of the Temple (Acts 3:1-10). Peter proclaimed that the healing came through the very God the people worshiped in the Temple before them. Their God had raised Jesus from the dead and in Jesus’ name the beggar was raised.

Now the two disciples are before the Sanhedrin’s religious authorities and Peter is defending what he did and in whose name he did it. The authorities can’t deny the miracle, there were witnesses to the event. But they want to know, “By what power, or in whose name have men like you done this?”(4:7) When Peter and John stood before the religious authorities did they remember that Jesus had told them they would encounter opposition, but also that the Holy Spirit would be with them and tell them what to say? (Luke 12: 11-12 )

Jesus fulfilled his promise because we hear how in the opening words of today’s reading: “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said….”

It is called the “Acts of the Apostles,” but as we read about the “acts” of the apostles, we realize we are really being invited to witness the “Acts of the Holy Spirit.” We know of the previous dismal performance of the apostles from the four Gospels. But all has changed – they had changed – because in each of their wonderful preaching and healings, even before opponents, the promised Spirit was acting through them. Thus, the “Acts of the Holy Spirit.”

We are not just casual readers of this account are we? No, we are people of faith being reminded that we too were beggars unable to heal and save ourselves. Then, through our baptism, new life was given us, healed beggars. We could stand up and move. Like Peter, who once healed in the name of Jesus, we too can “raise up” the downtrodden.

Who are they who need healing words and actions? Let us break the silence and speak loving and forgiving words to those nearest us in our own families. We have been locked up too long and in our frustration have said and done hurtful things to those closest to us. Break the silence. People around us are still isolated in their homes due to age, poverty, or illness. Let’s not pass them by, as Peter and John could have done on their way to pray. Instead reach out to them and break the silence. We don’t have to look far these days for beggars. Like Peter and John we see, or pass them daily. They are near supermarkets, at soup kitchens, road crossings and living under bridges. Can we share food with them, a smile and a kind word? Let’s break the silence.

From today’s Gospel reading:

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.

A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

Reflection:

There are a lot of voices out there that can only distract and scatter us. Perhaps we’ve paid too much attention to them at times in our lives. Through hard experience we have learned that they don’t have our best interests at heart and if we listen to them we are scattered. But the voice of the Shepherd, Jesus tells us, wants to gather us. His voice can help us keep our wits about us in an often misguided world.

So we ask ourselves:

  • Can I name the “false shepherds” I have listened to?
  • How did they mislead me?
  • Where and how do I listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd?

 

Prayer of the Faithful

 

Leader:          We bring our prayers and petitions before the Lord, trusting in his goodness, for God is our Father and knows our every need.

 

Reader:

We pray for Pope Francis and for all pastoral leaders in the Church: (pause) that they may protect it against corruption and worldliness, and strive to maintain the unity of the one flock.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for anyone discerning a vocation to the consecrated life or priesthood: (pause) that they may recognise God’s invitation and have courage to respond.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for all leaders in South Africa: (pause) that God will give them a heart like the Good Shepherd, compassion toward those who are suffering, and wisdom to develop policies that advance the common good.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for young people anxious about their future: (pause) that the good shepherd will lead them to the right opportunities for education and satisfying employment.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for those whom this fast-changing world has marginalised: (pause) that communities will be moved to gather in all who may feel lost, left out or left behind.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for deceased members of our families and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for Richard Saunders and Stuart Allan who died during the week.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.

 

And let perpetual light shine on them.

May they rest in peace.  Amen

 

Leader:          Let us pray for vocations:

 

God our Father,
You made each of us
to use our gifts in the Body of Christ.
We ask that You inspire young people

whom you call to the priesthood and consecrated life
to courageously follow Your will.
Send workers into Your harvest
so that the Gospel is preached,
the poor are served with love,
the suffering are comforted,
and Your people are strengthened by the sacraments.
We ask this through Christ our Lord,
Amen.

 

Spiritual Communion

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.

 

 

 

CONCLUDING RITE

 

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:          God of lasting love,
fulfil your plan of salvation
to gather into one fold
the peoples of the whole world.
Let everyone on earth
recognize your Christ as the Good Shepherd,
who freely lays down his life for all
to take it up again in power.

Grant this through Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

 

All:                  Amen.

 

Easter Blessing

 

Leader:          Through the resurrection of Jesus
God has redeemed us and made us his children.
May God bless us with joy.

 

All:                  Amen.

Leader:          Our Redeemer has given us lasting freedom.
May we inherit everlasting life.

All:                  Amen.

Leader:          By faith, we rose with Jesus in baptism.
May our lives be holy,
so that we will be united with Jesus for ever.

All:                  Amen.

Leader:          May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

 

 

All:                  Amen.

 

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