Easter 4 May 7, 2017
Acts 2, 14-41 + Psalm 23 + 1 Peter 2, 20-25 + John 10, 1-10
St Peter and St William Church, Naples, FL
There is a turn to be noticed with today’s Gospel. It is a turn from reflection upon the Resurrection toward a reflection upon Pentecost. Midway through the Easter season, the lectionary suggests that we now look ahead after being refreshed and renewed by a look back. This turn also suggests that now we look at ourselves having faced, like the apostles, the risen Christ. In the context of this season then, the image put before us today is an image of us as a church just as much as it is an image of Christ. Having been purified and filled with the Spirit, having been fed on the Eucharistic Body of Christ, having been raised up into the gift of everlasting life, we are now the Shepherd/Church continuing the work of this Shepherd Jesus who has breathed his life into us.
There comes a time in every one of our lives when we stop expecting someone to take care of us and begin to do the caregiving. That is what this Sunday says to us. The character, the mission, the identity of the Church that is born on Pentecost is being sketched out with this image of Jesus as Shepherd. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we do Christ’s work. If someone is lost, we go for them. If someone is hungry, we spread the table. If someone is in danger, we protect and defend them. What we see in the Good Shepherd is what we must see in this church. What people imagine and hope for in a good shepherd they must find in us.
In preparing us to continue his shepherding, Christ taught us about compassion which is not learned without suffering. Unless we have suffered and wept, we really don’t understand what compassion is nor can we comfort someone who is suffering. In teaching us about shepherding, he taught us about sacrifice as the surest sign of love. Unless we give and sacrifice for one another no one is going to know about real love and the love of God for us. That man who walked in darkness teaches us that unless we have walked in darkness we can’t help wanderers find their way. But when we have suffered we become pathfinders for others.
Leaders of the church call us today to pray for and reflect upon religious vocations. Good Shepherd Sunday is traditionally a reminder to listen for the call of God to service and sacrifice. Until the courageous and prophetic voice of the Church is louder than the seductive voices of consumerism, materialism, and self-serving pleasures we will continue to want for Shepherds because we have lost our own true calling as a pastoral church. The lame, the sick, the blind, the sinners, the poor, the hungry and the thirsty came to Christ the Good Shepherd. Now they come to us, and they must not go away empty. The more each one of us begins to look and act like a real shepherd, the more shepherds there will be. Just sitting in a pew on Saturday or Sunday fulfilling some felt obligation isn’t going to make any difference at all. Shepherds come from shepherding homes where there is goodness and kindness, and those homes make a pastoral parish. So that whenever we gather in this place because of our goodness and kindness to each other, every soul will be refreshed, every cup will overflow, and the presence of the Shepherd will never be in doubt.