Fourth Sunday of Easter: Good Shepherd Sunday

Dear Parishioners and Friends of Saint Jerome,

Pax Christi semper vobiscum!

I have been speculating and wondering as to why Good Shepherd Sunday has always been celebrated on the Fourth Sunday after Easter. Also, I wonder why there is a sudden shift of the Gospel narrative from the various accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection appearances to the Good Shepherd discourse. To form a response, I cannot compare myself to the expert Bible scholars nor to those who dedicated their entire life to Biblical exegesis. I simply derived my thoughts from the logic of the events as re-counted by the Evangelists  in the selected passages over the last few weeks where we heard of the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus.

Aware of the fear, worries, insecurities, and doubts that the first disciples experienced, I can only speculate that the sudden shift of the Gospel theme was simply to establish an atmosphere of assurance and peace to their hearts which were vulnerable and terrified. The Gospel reading of today emphasizes the closeness and certainty of the presence of Jesus to those who were, and are, entrusted to Him by the Father. Jesus is our Good Shepherd who accompanied His friends during the most difficult moments of their lives and remains up until today to be our Companion in a world that is challenged with so many tormenting life circumstances.

Jesus is our Good Shepherd who loves us each unreservedly. I see His Love realized through so many husbands and wives who think only of their children to the point of setting aside their personal interests for the sake of their family. Their willingness to give the entirety of their lives for the sake of their family is modeled after the Good Shepherd who loves without expecting anything in return.

Jesus continues to initiate a close and intimate relationship with us. He intends to protect His flock, to guide and to lead us to safety and stability and to eternal life. This requires our openness to His initiative. The appearance of Jesus in the Upper Room amid the terrified disciples was indicative of His willingness to pass through the hardened walls of our hearts so He could cast away our doubts and fears that often prevent us from allowing Him to be intimately united with us. Imagine, then, what would it be like if we were to always keep our hearts open as we decide to set aside the barriers to our relationship with God and with each other. Jesus as the Good Shepherd always desires to be involved with our undertakings so we could experience intensely His presence that provides us confidence and direction.

As a Good Shepherd, He listens. Our dialogue with Jesus, through communication in prayer, allows us to deepen our relationship with Him. This is our initial step to a profound knowledge of the thoughts of God. Simply, His thoughts for us is His Will for us also. This must be discerned in silence and dialogue with Him. The challenge relies on our ability to set aside time for prayer so we can use those moments of silence to discern and listen to whatever God would like us to accomplish in cooperation with His plans. Our unique relationship with God should bring us confidence that He understands us, that our opinion matters, that our concerns are heard by Him, that our proposals and supplications are meant to be discerned by us in confirmation with the unfolding of events in our daily lives.

Jesus’ sacrificial offering of His life at Calvary proves the depth of His love for us. That is the nature of a true love. It always goes way beyond the norm of human standards. Love is divine, since this is the nature of God – God is Love.  This, then, is the challenge for us in our involvement with any form of human commitment. The spirit of sacrifice that should exist side by side in any form of commitment is affirmed and confirmed through one’s willingness to be consumed by that same spirit of sacrifice that requires a total oblation of one’s being. Jesus proved this as true and, thus, the sacrificial love of the  Good Shepherd should be mirrored in us so that “there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

Our solidarity with Jesus as imitators of His commitment to the love that He has proven in the Paschal Mystery ratifies our recognition of the relationship that He wants us to enter into. His commitment to shepherd us and our willingness to be shepherded by Him requires our intention of humble commitment to entrust our minds and our hearts fully to His lead. We can certainly run away from His fold and He shall look for us until we are found. Yet, until when are we willing to be away from His presence in that divine relationship that provides only assurance, safety, and stability?  Because of our free will, it is only our personal decision that will determine how we would like to reach the end of our life’s journey as we step into eternity.

We continue to ask Our Good Shepherd, then, to provide for us: good and committed parents who will shepherd their children to attain good goals in life; government officials who will shepherd us to achieve the common good in obedience to divine and just civil law; law enforcement officers who will shepherd us to keep peace and order in our land and society; medical professionals who will aim at saving, not destroying, lives; builders and other professionals who will aim at guiding our young people to the peak of creative success; and lastly, young men and women who will offer themselves completely to God’s service so as to be living witnesses of the life to come as priests, religious and lay consecrated persons, wherein we all remember to repeatedly pray:

Send, O Lord, Holy Apostles into Your Church.

Sincerely in Christ and Mary,