Sunday Church at Home – 4th Sunday of Easter, Cycle A

4th Sunday of Easter, Year A

Sunday Church at Home during lockdown on Level 4

The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:

Leader: ln 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: The fourth Sunday of Easter is known as “Good Shepherd Sunday” because every year the gospel reading is on this theme. It is taken from one part or another of Jesus’ discourse in chapter 10 of John’s gospel. In Year A the theme is also found in the responsorial psalm and the second reading.

Every image of Jesus offers insight into the inexhaustible mystery of his person. The word of God provides us with such a wealth of images that sometimes they seem to collide with one another. In Eastertide, for example, Jesus is both lamb and shepherd. Only last week the author of 1 Peter wrote of Jesus as a lamb whose blood had won our salvation; in today’s passage he describes Jesus as “the shepherd and guardian of our souls.” This play of images is meant to inspire, not confuse, us. They allow us to inhabit the mystery and find our home in it.

LITURGY OF THE WORD

First Reading: Acts 2: 14a.36-41

Introduction to the reading: In last Sunday’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard a portion of Peter’s sermon at the first Pentecost. Today’s passage gives the last part of that sermon and the reaction of those who heard it.

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles
On the day of Pentecost, Peter, standing with the Eleven, lifted up his voice and said to the multitude, “Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you have crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

The Word of the Lord.

Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm beginning and ending with the response:

R/: The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me;
he revives my soul.
He guides me along the right path,
for the sake of his name.
Though I should walk in the valley
of the shadow of death,
no evil would I fear, for you are with me.
Your crook and your staff will give me comfort.
You have prepared a table before me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
for the length of days unending.
R/: The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Second Reading: 1 Pet 2:20b-25

Introduction to the reading: Today’s passage from the first letter of Peter was addressed to Christian slaves who were being treated harshly by their pagan masters. The author reminds them that they are members of a flock whose shepherd walked ahead of them in the face of insults and unjust treatment.

A reading from the first Letter of Saint Peter
Beloved: If when you do right and suffer for it you take it patiently, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
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 10:1-10

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
At that time: Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
The Gospel of the Lord.

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

Homily prepared by Fr Tshepo Duik
We’re familiar with the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, perhaps too familiar with it that we have forgotten just how amazing an image it is. For most of us, the only time we see a shepherd is in the movies. And, perhaps the only times we ever see and a sheep is when it is served on our plates.

When I was very young, we used to go to Limpopo to visit my grandparents. They lived in a rural village. They had goats and sheep. And we would spend long hours with cousins who were watching over the sheep and goats while we fooled around. Being a shepherd did not seem interesting enough. Maybe, for most of us, when Jesus says he is the shepherd, the imagery is lost to us.

When we think of a shepherd, we think of many things. But in the Old Testament, if one thought of a shepherd, one would think of a man who spends his whole life with his sheep, taking care of them, raising them, loving them, healing them and, most of all, protecting them from all harm.

The Jewish people loved shepherds so much that they became part of their understanding of who God is: God was their shepherd! In the Old Testament, God says to Ezekiel, “I am tired of you shepherds. I am going to take my own sheep and shepherd them myself because you neglect them, you don’t care for them, you don’t love them, you don’t take care of them, and so, one day, I will send a shepherd and he will be God Himself.” Such words God did not surprise anyone, because the father of the chosen people of God, Abraham, was himself a shepherd. And what was his son? A shepherd. And what was his son? A shepherd.

The idea of a shepherd deepens when God stands before His people and when Jesus, the Son of God, says: “I am the shepherd.” Not a shepherd, but the shepherd. “I am the shepherd. My sheep know me and I know my sheep, and I give my sheep life, life itself,” he says.

Why in this day and age, would we need such an image of God?

The sheep hear and recognise and follow their shepherd’s voice. In a sheepfold where there are the sheep of many shepherds, the true shepherd knows which ones belong to him. He calls them out one by one. When they recognise the voice of their own shepherd, they follow him. They will not follow other shepherds, even if called by them. It is a free relationship, a trusting relationship, an intimate relating. When the shepherd has brought out his sheep to pasture, he goes ahead of them. And they follow because “they know his voice”.

Jesus wants us to share in his mission of shepherding. We are asked to pray today especially that our Christian communities will be graced with good shepherds and pastors. It is a pity that we tend to narrow the term “vocation” to those who feel called to the priesthood or Religious Life.

Yet we need to emphasise very strongly that every single baptised person has a ‘vocation’. Everyone is called by God to play a specific role in the Christian community and in the wider community. We need to see that ‘vocation’ is something that we are all called to. Unfortunately, a large number of us decide first on our ‘career’ and only then ask, “How can I be a good Christian, a good Catholic, a good disciple?

So, rather than praying for vocations only in the narrow sense of the word, why not pray today: “Lord, what is MY vocation?”
Let each of us listen today as the Good Shepherd calls each of us – one-by-one – by name.

Questions for reflection
What does God want me to be?
What are my particular gifts?
How can I offer these gifts in service to my parish and to the wider community?

Prayer of the Faithful

Leader: Let us turn to the Lord and shepherd of our souls and seek his watchful care over all.

Reader: We pray for Pope Francis, our bishops and priests: (pause)
that they may faithfully imitate Christ in accompanying the people of God on their journey and encouraging their growth toward wholeness.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for a listening heart: (pause)
that we, who have been called by name, may hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and respond confidently to God’s invitations.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for South Africa during this time of lockdown: (pause)
that our leaders may understand the suffering of ordinary people and that God will give them insight and courage as they develop plans to both preserve the health and safety of society and to reopen the economy.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for all who are unemployed or facing uncertainty about their jobs during lockdown: (pause)
that God will guide them in maximizing their resources and open new opportunities for them to use their gifts and skills.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for all who work to restore life and bring healing, for medical personnel, for counselors, and for chaplains: (pause)
that God will guide them as they journey with those in pain and preserve them from harm.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for members of our families and friends who have died and those whose anniversaries occur about this time. (pause)
LORD HEAR US

We pray for all who have died this week, especially those with the Covid-19 virus.
Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord.

All: And let perpetual light shine on them.
May they rest in peace. Amen.

Leader: Let us pray our prayer for healing:

All pray: Almighty and all-merciful God,
lover of the human race,
healer of all our wounds,
in whom there is no shadow of death,
save us in this time of crisis;
grant wisdom and courage to our leaders;
watch over all medical people
as they tend the sick and work for a cure;
stir in us a sense of solidarity beyond all isolation;
if our doors are closed, let our hearts be open.
By the power of your love destroy the virus of fear,
that hope may never die
and the light of Easter, the triumph of life,
may shine upon us and the whole world.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, the Lord risen from the dead,
who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Amen.

Holy Mary, health of the sick, pray for us.
St Joseph, guardian of us all, pray for us.
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 at least spiritually.
I unite myself to you now as I do when I actually 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: Like a good shepherd, O God,
keep watch over those
you have redeemed by the blood of your Son,
and lead them as your flock into heavenly pastures.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Blessing

A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:

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

All: Amen.

Instrumental music may be played or a hymn may be sung.

 

 

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