Fourth Sunday of Easter

Shepherd, listening and following the Risen Lord are the keywords that capture the central message of this Fourth Sunday of Easter also known as Good Shepherd Sunday. The readings first remind us that the risen Christ, the Lamb slain for our sins is our Shepherd who gives us eternal life. That is the fulfillment of the vision in the Book of Revelations that speaks about those who are finally rewarded with new life, where they will never hunger nor be thirsty again. The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles is about the evangelizing efforts of the early Church. It draws our attention to the difficulties that beset that Church in its witness. Paul and Barnabas follow the voice of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the message of the Shepherd to the Jews. The rejection of the Good News by the Jews in Antioch becomes a blessing in disguise because Paul and Barnabas turn to the Gentiles who warmly welcome the Good News. The comforting message is clear. Countless difficulties, opposition, deceit, and persecution have never succeeded in blocking the evangelizing mission of the Church.

The Gospel of this Sunday proclaims the good news of comfort for millions of people in the world today. It also offers us a great challenge. The comforting message is that the sheep listen to the shepherd’s voice and that no one can snatch the sheep out of the Father’s hands. The challenge for both the pastors and lay faithful alike is to recognize the voice of the shepherd in the midst of opposition, countless voices of other churches, the TV channels, the Internet, Facebook, Tweets? We do that by remaining close to other the sheep and our spiritual family. The challenge is caring for one another by being what Pope Francis has called custodians of one another to discern the voice of the Shepherd, the Risen Lord.

The message we take home this Sunday is threefold.  1) We are challenged to listen and follow the Risen Lord who shepherds us through the Church.  2)  Just as the risen Lord is the lamb who dies for us and suffers with us, you and I are challenged to reach out with compassion to those who suffer.   3) As an Easter people touched by the risen Lord, we are challenged to purposely reach out to those who are weak in their faith; those tested by the many conflicting voices in the world; those led away from the flock, away from the Shepherd and bring them back home to the fold.

Msgr. John S. Mbinda