Homily Fourth Sunday of Easter Year B Good Shepherd

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Homily Fourth Sunday of Easter Year B
Reading 1: The context of the reading. Peter and John after their Pentecostal experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit, were on the way to the Temple to praise God.  Before entering the Temple, they encountered a crippled beggar at the gate of the Temple. Led by the Holy Spirit, they did what they saw Jesus do, they healed the man in the name of Jesus. As a result of this miracle, the crowds in the Temple were astonished, focusing on Peter and John.

Recall the time Jesus asked the Apostles: “Who do people say I am?” “Who do you say I am?” Peter’s response at the time: “You are the Christ.” He said this without understanding the full impact of this prophetic utterance, spoken in the Spirit.

Now, after seeing the Risen Savior, who had been crucified for our sins and after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, explains both the source of the healing of the crippled man and the true reason why Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah. First, he says, the man was healed in the name of Jesus. Secondly, Jesus is the only Savior of the world. There is no salvation except through Jesus Christ.

It is our faith belief that whoever is saved is saved through the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is the grace flowing from his redemptive and reconciling gift of himself on the cross that is the means of salvation for all who are saved.  This has been the consistent teaching from apostolic times.

Second Reading: Since Jesus is our Savior, what does that mean to us? We have become the adoptive sons and daughters of God, his children. It also tells us that if we persevere in this relationship, we shall be with God and see him as he is. 

Again, this is not something that we have achieved on our own. Our relationship to God as sons and daughters is a direct consequence of the death and resurrection of Jesus and our being immersed in his life through Baptism.

Gospel: Jesus identifies himself as the Good Shepherd. What makes him different as a Shepherd? He cares for his sheep even to the point of laying his life down for them.  He says this five different times in today’s reading.

The shepherd is for the sheep, not the sheep for the shepherd. Jesus lays down his life so that we in turn may have life to the fullest. He lays down his life on the cross in order to expiate our sins.  In Jesus is our salvation.

Salvation means that our sins are forgiven and we will not suffer the second death which is total and eternal alienation from the source of all life, God. But salvation is a grace from God. We don’t earn it or merit it, but we can lose it, if we do not continue to live in relationship with God.

Recalled that Esau, being the first born before his twin brother, Jacob, would by right receive the inheritance and blessing of his Father, Isaac.  As a result, the first born would become head of the family. The promises God made to Abraham and his descendants would flow through him. But Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a pot of stew. At the time, it didn’t mean anything to him. But when his father was dying, he realized what he had foolishly done.  But it was too late.

The promise that flow from salvation in Jesus are ours unless, like Esau, we foolishly forfeit them through a life of sin and die unrepentant in sin.  Salvation is a precious gift that is to be deepened in us. It is God’s life in us.

How precious is our human life? To what extent do we go to maintain, extend our life through proper eating, medicine, exercising, etc? What are we doing to deepen and enhance our sharing in the divine life that God has given us? How conscious are we of the disease of cancer or the blockage of the arteries? How conscious are we of spiritual cancer and spiritual blockage, which will lead to eternal death?

Salvation is a precious gift from the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ.  But like any gift, it needs to be responded to in a manner that is in union with God’s will for us. This means living truly and consciously as the adopted sons and daughters we are by grace.

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