To be celebrated on 8th May 2022
Gospel Text John 10:27-30
vs.27 Jesus said,
“The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.
vs.28 I give them eternal life; they will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from me.
vs.29 The Father who gave them to me is greater than anyone, and no one can steal from the Father.
vs.30 The Father and I are one.
We have four commentators available from whom you may wish to choose .
Michel DeVerteuil : A Trinidadian Holy Ghost Priest, deceased, formar director of the Trinidad Centre of Biblical renewal .
Thomas O’Loughlin: Professor of Historical Theology, University of Northampton
Sean Goan: Studied scripture in Rome, Jerusalem and Chicago and teaches at Blackrock College and works with the Le Chéile Schools
Donal Neary SJ: Editor of The Sacred Heart Messenger
Michel de Verteuil
Lectio Divina, The Year of Luke
On the fourth Sunday of Easter the gospel reading is always taken from chapter 10 of St John’s gospel – the chapter in which is developed the theme of the Good Shepherd. A different extract from this chapter is read each year of the three-year cycle; we read the shortest one of the three in Year C.
The Good Shepherd passages tell us about Jesus, but also about all who have been given authority over others – parents, teachers, community leaders or spiritual guides. As we meditate on these passages, we therefore think with gratitude of good shepherd we have known. Your meditation could also be an examination of conscience on how you exercise authority.
The passage develops three themes:
• in verse 27 the sheep obey not because of any external compulsion, but because they experience that they belong to the shepherd and are known by him;
• in verse 28 the shepherd is perfectly secure in the loyalty of the sheep. Good shepherds don’t have to wonder, “Am I loved?” or “Are the sheep loyal to me?” they can therefore set about the work of leadership in freedom. Secure in their role, they can be creative, try new things, pose new challenges.
• In verses 29 and 30 we see that the security of good shepherds is rooted in their union with God.
It is traditional on this Sunday to remember ministers in the Church, so you might orient your meditation specially in that direction. Make sure you include in your meditation the whole range of “ministers” in a modern church community – parish council members, lectors, ministers of the Eucharist, spiritual guides, choir leaders, finance committee members, directors of organizations such as St Vincent de Paul, prayer groups, etc.
“If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” …An Australian Aboriginal
Lord, we pray for those who work in community development.
They often find that they cannot motivate people or get them to change their ways,
and they think that what people need is to take courses or develop new skills.
But Jesus taught us the secret of being shepherds:
if people don’t feel that they belong to us they will not hear our voice,
and unless they get the feeling that we know them they won’t follow us.
Lord we thank you for deep relationships:
– a spouse, an intimate friend, a leader to whom we entrusted ourselves,
– a priest who ministered to us.
We remember how the very first time we met
we knew that we belonged to them, and recognized their voice;
we felt that they knew us through and through,
and spontaneously we followed them.
I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, does not.Lord, there are people in our country who are always talked down to
because they are considered uneducated or unintelligent.
We pray that at least in our Church communities they may know that they belong,
that leaders know them and accept them for who they are.
Lord, one of the frustrating things about being a teacher
is that we wonder if we are getting through to our students.
But every once in a while you send us someone who is your special gift to us,
someone we know instinctively belongs to us and follows us;
we know they might stray for a while, but they will never be lost or stolen from us.
Lord, when people we love leave us we become jealous:
– our followers turn to another leader;
– a favourite child starts to show a preference for the other parent;
– a friend gets close to someone else.
Even as a Church we are jealous when members join another Church.
Lord, at the root of all jealousy is insecurity.
If we were more like Jesus we would accept those you give us with trust,
knowing that if they are really your gift to us
then no one can steal them from us
because you are greater than anyone and no one can steal from you.
“Bind us with cords that cannot be broken.” …Popular hymn
Lord, we thank you for moments of deep prayer
when we feel perfectly secure,
so that we don’t need to ask for anything,
to beg for forgiveness or to make promises.
We know that in Jesus we and you are one and we are one with all creation,
because everything is your gift and you are greater than anyone,
and no power in heaven or on earth can steal from you.
Liturgical Resources for the Year of Luke
Introduction to the Celebration
One of the images applied to God in the Old Testament is that he is the shepherd of his people: The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want. And, he will send a new shepherd to Israel who will gather all those who have been scattered — which is seen as a result of sin — into one flock.
We Christians believe that Christ is our shepherd, leading us to the fullness of life. We may find this language of ‘sheep’ and ‘shepherds’ strange, but beneath the imagery is our belief that God is gentle, caring and just.
Gospel Comment: In 10:27-30
As it stands, this reading lacks context and it is difficult to make sense of it — the only rationale for its selection here seems to be that it invokes the image of the shepherd again (first found in John at 10:2) and the earlier parts of chapter 10. which use the image had already been selected for Years A and B. So, having opted for the theme of Good Shepherd Sunday, this was the only gospel text that was available! The reading makes sense if set in its full Joannine scene which begins at 10:22 and ends at 10:39. The scene is a festival in Jerusalem and Jesus is being challenged by the Jews to keep them in suspense no longer: is he the Messiah or not? (v. 24). Jesus will only tell them that his works in the Father’s name testify to him. His own know him and follow him, and so these are brought into the domain of the Father. He and the Father are one, but as John 17:1 makes clear, this union includes the community of the disciples. This answer by Jesus causes consternation, and they attempt to stone him, a further statement on his works and about his relationship to the Father, and the gospel moves ever closer to the showdown of his arrest and crucifixion.
1. Preaching today is difficult. For a start this is often referred to as ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’ and attempts to attract people to the priesthood and religious life – yet, while there is sheep imagery in the gospel, it is not the familiar image of ‘the good shepherd’.
Second, using the homily as a place for advertising the ordained priesthood may be counter-productive! Clergy today may be more of an object lesson in what to avoid, than an attractive example. If you do pick up this theme, bear the following in mind.
(a) Be careful not to ignore the fact that every Christian is called to some specific ministry in the church – high visibility ministries are but one variant of the general call to serve the Body of Christ.
(b) The ministry of Eucharistic presidency must be presented as something that exists within the whole body of the church and not as a ‘class apart‘, which is the device used in recruitment of ‘specialists’ in the employment market.
(c) Harping on about falling numbers is a waste of time: people can both count and observe the age profile of clergy. Time should be devoted to giving a deeper understanding of what ministry is all about.
(d) We do not preach in a vacuum: people have seen and felt
– the scandals in the church,
–the failures of administration to take action,
– he general sluggishness in facing issues.
So honesty about the problems within the priesthood today is a pre-requisite, or what is said is dismissed as obscurantist. Refuge in the distinction between the shining ideal and the sordid affairs of individual situations likewise does not appease people, and in any case one cannot speak of some ideal church – it is the real historical church that is the vehicle of the gospel. If you cannot face speaking in such blunt terms about the state of the presbyterate, then it is perhaps best to leave the topic alone.
2. If one opts to preach on the gospel text, the situation is not helped by the fact that the reading lacks context. However, the shepherd/flock imagery is part of the basic stratum of the kerygma (see the Eucharistic Prayer in the Didache which predates all our other textual references to the theme). From the Didache we can get some idea of the world of images that lies behind today’s gospel. In Ezekiel the scattering of the people of Israel is seen as a result of their sins, and there also is the promise that YHWH will one day send a good shepherd unlike the wicked shepherds who led the people astray who will gather the isolated people and make them into one flock of the Lord. This is the theme that the Didache takes up:
Christ has gathered all the scattered individuals and formed them into a new, transformed body – his own. This is the cause of their joy as followers, which they see celebrated in the Eucharist, and for which they see themselves as offering thanks with the Son of David to the Father. This is the theme that can be derived from today’s gospel: Christ has called each of us, he knows each of us by name, he has gathered us to form the church and this assembly.
3. This theme of Christ the gatherer, the true leader, and the one who has made us into this people now at the Eucharist is a valuable one to explore. It also points out that all Christians whether they are called’ shepherds’ / pastors or not – have to see themselves as followers of Christ.
3. Sean Goan
Let the reader understand
In the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel the focus is on the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. This language is to be understood in the light of Old Testament ideas that God was the shepherd of Israel and that their kings were meant to follow his example. Often they failed in this duty and the people were abandoned. This explains the importance of Jesus describing himself as the shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. In the text for today, the emphasis is on the relationship that must exist between Jesus and the members of his flock. They are known by Jesus (this is the intimate knowledge of friendship) and they listen to him and follow him on the path that leads to life. All of this is possible because Jesus is completely united with God his Father.
A superficial reading of the Acts of the Apostles might lead one to imagine that the early days of the church were so blessed by : the presence of the Spirit that it was easy for the disciples to remain faithful and for the church to grow. However, this was clearly not the case. The first generations of believers were setting out on a journey into unchartered territory and they faced huge problems, including marginalisation and even death. The New Testament, both in the Acts and the Book of Revelation, is witnessing not to the ease with which they undertook their task but rather to their courage and openness in facing whatever came their way. It is also a witness to their utter conviction that Jesus was with them through all their experiences.
4. Donal Neary S.J.
‘God, that’s very true’ — a remark at our liturgy meeting after the second reading. Jealousy kills, envy too, and isn’t it great to rejoice in the good fortune of another?
Love is what we bring with us at the end of life. ‘We will be judged in the evening of life by love (St John of the Cross). Love for those near and far, for love in the gospel is more than love for just the family, the friend, the attractive one, the neighbour, for all.
There are different calls to Christian love – near and dear daily love, friendship, marriage, relationships. The wider world like in our job where we live in a loving way, in justice with all, not using others for personal gain; the wider world where a universal love makes me want to make a difference in the bigger world. Love carries us into wide seas and waters. It involves us with everyone. It obviously doesn’t mean we relate to everyone – nor that we even like everyone. Love is when others’ lives become at least as important as our own; and in the deepest loves like marriage, family, and often friendship, others’ lives become even more important.
Love changes — we look back and see how the people we loved make the difference. Life is too short to look love in the face and say no.
‘We are moulded and remoulded by those who have loved us, and though their love may pass, we are nevertheless their work’ (F Mauriac).
The second reading today is hard to beat! We see it in action when we look at the life of Jesus.
Dear Jesus whose heart is wide enough to love us all,
make our hearts like yours.