Sunday Reflection | Fourth Sunday of Easter - Saint John's Seminary
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Sunday Reflection | Fourth Sunday of Easter

April 30, 2023

“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” The prayerful and inspiring words of Psalm 23 find their application and elaboration on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, as the relationship between Jesus and his disciples is portrayed in the Gospel as the relationship of a shepherd to his sheep. Just as a shepherd knows his sheep by name, so Jesus knows each one of us, his disciples, intimately and personally, and he calls us by name. He guides us in the right paths and walks with us through the dark valleys of life.

When the disciple hears the shepherd’s voice, he or she responds with attentiveness and obedience. This response arises from the personal commitment and relationship to Jesus, who first knew and called each one. Jesus calls his disciples to follow him to the good pasture and to full, abundant life – to eternal life – which he shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Today, we may be a little surprised when we hear Jesus begin to interpret his identity as the Good Shepherd in terms of being “the gate for the sheep.” We notice that there are multiple aspects of Jesus as the gate. Early in the passage, Jesus spoke about the gate as the way in and out of the sheepfold. He leads the sheep, “walking ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they recognize his voice.” As the gate, Jesus is the open door and the way through which we enter into salvation and abundant life, which Jesus also identifies as “eternal life.” Jesus is also the gate that guards the sheep and their pasture and sheepfold. There is some evidence that shepherds would often sleep in the entrance of the sheepfold to provide protection and security for the sheep against predators.

When we say something about who Jesus is and how Jesus is, we also say something about our relationship to him. Acknowledging and honoring Jesus as the Good Shepherd, we reflect on the ways Jesus leads us, cares for us, and protects us. Jesus does all this in a threatening world of “thieves and robbers,” that is, those who would challenge and oppose his leadership and try to lead us astray.

Praying and responding to Jesus as the Good Shepherd and sheep gate also says something about who and how we are as members of his fold, that is, as his disciples. Individually and collectively, we recognize Jesus and trust him as our shepherd and leader. Because there are many temptations and distractions in this world, disciples want to make every effort to listen to the voice of their shepherd.

Today then, the Gospel challenges us to reflect on the way we listen for the voice of the Good Shepherd. There are so many voices that call out to us and demand our attention. To hear and recognize the Lord’s voice requires our efforts to practice listening and grow our awareness of living our lives in God’s presence. We want to take the opportunity to listen when we pray and meditate, to immerse ourselves in God’s Word when we read the Scriptures and especially come before the Lord and listen to him at Mass and in Confession. John’s Gospel reminds us that the Good Shepherd continues to call each of us by name.

Very Rev. Stephen Salocks

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, B.S.

Saint John's Seminary, M.Div.

Pontifical Biblical Institute, S.S.L.

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