Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter A

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Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Sometimes it is hard for us to really mine the scriptures, to fully understand the wealth contained in the Revelation of God’s Word. What is God telling us about himself, his relationship with us, our relationship with one another?

The image of the Shepherd and the sheep does not speak volumes to us because these are images which are somewhat foreign to our cultural experience. We have seen pictures and read stories but that may be the extent of it.

In the Gospel, Jesus is speaking about his love relationship with us.

First, there is a oneness and an intimacy developed between the shepherd and the sheep. The shepherd is with the sheep 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. There is a commitment to the sheep. The shepherd lives for the flock. This is not just another job. It is a way of life, something one loves to do. Jesus calls himself a Shepherd because all of his energies and concerns were for us, the flock, entrusted to his care by his Father. His whole life was dedicated to us.

Second, this intimacy and relationship extended to knowing the sheep as individuals. He knew them so well that he knew which one had tender hooves, which one got sick from eating certain things and which were prone to stray from others. Like the shepherd, Jesus knows each one of us in a deeply personal way. He knows which of us has a weak faith, which of us is apt to get discouraged and which of us is prone to stray from the flock. Jesus never deserts us. He is always there to help us and should we stray from the flock, Jesus will leave the ninety-nine and go in search of that one.

Third, the shepherd is the sheep gate. Once the sheep are in the pen for the night, the shepherd literally becomes the gate. He lays down across the narrow entrance. No sheep could leave the pen and no wild animal could enter it, without stepping on the body of the shepherd. In caring for his sheep this way, the shepherd is willing to give up his life for each one of the sheep.

Fourth, the shepherd is courageous, willing to defend the sheep against attacks from wild animals.

Fifth, like the shepherd who goes before the sheep as they follow him, Jesus goes before us on our journey as we follow him. There is a sense of security following him. Whom do we follow? Is Jesus the Lord and Messiah in fact of our lives?

Sixth, the sheep recognize the shepherd’s voice because of their intimacy with him. As we grow in intimacy with Jesus, we will learn to distinguish Jesus’ voice from all others and learn how to follow him and not a stranger. Are we in tune with the sound of his voice within us? How do we know? Do we take time to be still and listen?

Seventh, As a Shepherd, Jesus gives us new life and just the human life which is here today and gone tomorrow, but eternal life, life which is full and lasting. It is a share in his own life.

 

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