Reading 1: Acts 4:8-12
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 118:1, 8-4, 21-23, 26, 28, 29
Reading 2: 1 John 3:1-2
Gospel: John 10:11-18
Blessings to you on this Good Shepherd Sunday!
As we move further into the Easter season, we are invited to consider how we recognize God’s voice. It was hard enough for Jesus’ followers to figure out who he was when he walked among them, but even harder after his resurrection. They were often startled by his presence, and they cowered for weeks in an upper room not knowing where to go next. They were confused and not sure how to tune into the voice of the Good Shepherd.
In images we often see of the Good Shepherd, Jesus is cradling a lamb surrounded by grazing sheep. They are out in a pasture and it looks quiet and calm. The Shepherd provides care and mercy, protection from the wild, and it seems easy to hear his voice.
But how do we hear the Shepherd’s voice today? With the political shouting and frenzied pace, the pandemic chaos and distractions from all sides, because hard to discern the difference between the voice of our Lord and the voices of the wolves. Even within our own hearts we have good and destructive impulses. Ignatius Loyola would refer to these as good and evil spirits, and it takes great care to discern and pay attention to the spirits that are of God. Some appear righteous and yet, when we get closer, they are deceptive. Some voices claim to be offering calm discussion, and yet when we offer an alternative perspective, we are shouted down. Today’s world feels far away from that idyllic pasture and easy choice to follow God’s familiar voice.
But if we look closely at the other readings today, there are clues to how we might hear God’s voice and discern our path, how we might see in one another a reflection of the Good Shepherd worth following. In our first reading from Acts, we take note of the fact that Peter is standing up to the leaders of his day and he is “filled with the Holy Spirit.” The fact that the disciples have stepped out of the upper room and into the chaos of the streets means that they have found the courage to listen to the inner voice of God and reflect it into the world.
A second theme of Acts points to how we might recognize those who are filled with the Spirit of the Lord: the disciples are in trouble for a good deed of compassion done for someone who is on the margins. It is clear that the voice of our Lord goes hand in hand with Good News. And it is also clear that sometimes that Good News get us into, as the late John Lewis would say, “Good trouble.” This too is an important part of discerning the Shepherd’s voice: some deeds may be counter to the culture, but they are still in the way of our Shepherd. If our goal is to be Good News, then being imprisoned for doing a good deed is probably a hint that we are still in the flock of the Good Shepherd.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus uses seven statements that begin with “I am” which help us understand his ministry. They are familiar phrases, “I am the bread of life” or “I am the light of the world.” In his statement “I am the Good Shepherd,” Jesus is the shepherd who cares for and protects his flock. In using a familiar image of God from the Psalms, he also reminds us what it means to claim, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” For all of us who flock to Jesus our Shepherd for mercy and care, we are also challenged to follow this Jesus who claims, “I am the way.” We are tasked with hearing the voice of our Shepherd, following in his footsteps, and offering his care, protection, and mercy to others.
As you discern the voices, the good and evil spirits, or the impulses both in our world and in your own hearts, may you find in Jesus the Good Shepherd both compassion and challenge. May you have the comfort of claiming the Lord as your Shepherd, and the courage to follow his way. May you always be called, as our second reading promises, children of God.
Christina Zaker, DMin
Director of Field Education