May 6, 2022

Christ the Cornerstone

The Good Shepherd tends all sheep without exception

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the Earth” (Acts 13:47).

The Fourth Sunday of Easter is traditionally called Good Shepherd Sunday. The Scripture readings for this Sunday call our attention to the paradox that teaches us about the Lamb of God who is also the Good Shepherd.

Jesus is humble and gentle like a sacrificial lamb. But he is also forceful and firm in his ability to guide and direct us, the flock he has chosen as his own. His meekness is strength, and his submission to the Father’s will is decisive, showing us the way we should go.

In the Gospel reading for Good Shepherd Sunday, Jesus identifies himself with his flock:

“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one” (Jn 10:27-30).

There is a closeness between Jesus and those who follow him, and there is a bond that can never be broken. (“No one can take them out of my hand.”) This intimate connection between Jesus and his followers (all of us) mirrors the bond between Jesus and his Father, and it assures us that, because Jesus and his Father are one, as long as we are close to Jesus, we remain secure in the loving hands of the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This great news of our unshakable bond with the triune God is not something to be kept to ourselves like a secret handshake or password among members of an elitist group.

On the contrary, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 13:14, 43-52), it is news that must be shared “to the ends of the Earth” (Acts 13:47). The loving care we have been given by the Good Shepherd is intended for everyone—Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, people who are socially acceptable and outcasts. Everyone is in the hands of God. Thus, everyone without exception is invited to enjoy the tender, pastoral care of those who follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

In the second reading for Good Shepherd Sunday (Rev 7:9, 14b-17), St. John the Evangelist tells us that:

“I, John, had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. … Then one of the elders said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:9, 14).

What St. John envisions is a Church that is open to everyone. All who persevere and remain faithful will survive “the time of great distress,” the end time, and will be united with Christ the Lamb who sits on his heavenly throne.

“The one who sits on the throne will shelter them,” St. John says. “They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them. For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev 7:15-17). With this powerful vision of hope, we are shown the full extent of the Good Shepherd’s care for his people and for all God’s creation.

Never again will God’s people experience sadness, hunger and thirst, sickness or the horrors of war. As we sing in the Responsorial Psalm for this Sunday (Ps 100):

“Know that the Lord is God;
“he made us, his we are;
“his people, the flock he tends.
“his kindness endures forever,
“and his faithfulness, to all generations”
(Ps 100:3, 5).

The Good Shepherd gives his life for us. He sends his Holy Spirit to watch over us and guide us on our synodal journey to our heavenly home. Even in times of persecution and hardship, we can be confident that the pastoral care of Jesus the Good Shepherd will comfort us and give us the courage we need to persevere.

Following the example of Paul and Barnabas in Sunday’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, may we learn to “shake the dust from our feet” in protest against anything that would do us harm. May we be filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit—this Easter season and always! †

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