Beginning today though we are still in Easter, we no longer hear resurrection accounts until Ascension and Pentecost. Our Gospels return to Jesus’s public ministry. The accounts of Jesus’s resurrection are few and by the third Sunday, whether in a Sunday or weekday Mass, they have all been proclaimed. With Jesus’s ascension into heaven forty days after Easter, the apostolic age began and we hear that recounted in the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles.
In each of the three year Sunday cycles, the Fourth Sunday of Easter has an account of Jesus proclaiming that he is the Good Shepherd, hence why this Sunday is usually coined as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” All these accounts come from the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel (Year A—10:1-10; Year B—10:11-18; Year C—10:27-30). Interestingly, today’s Gospel passage might be the shortest in the three year cycle of Sunday Gospel readings. Despite its brevity, it certainly packs a punch with the content of these four verses.
While this account comes from Jesus’s public ministry, let me tie Jesus’s words today to his resurrection in a couple ways and why I believe the Church in her wisdom places this Good Shepherd Sunday every Fourth Sunday of Easter. Hopefully you remember the Easter Sequence which we sang on Easter and the Second Sunday. One of the paradoxes in the text was “Christ the Lamb has saved the sheep.” The unblemished spotless Lamb by his death has ransomed us all from death.
The Gospel verse for each Good Shepherd Sunday is John 10:14: “I am the Good Shepherd, says the Lord; I know my sheep and mine know me.” Tie this into the first line of today’s Gospel: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” On Easter morning, when Mary Magdalene is weeping at the tomb, she encounters Jesus but does not recognize him. When does she recognize him? When Jesus calls her by name: “Mary!” In other resurrection accounts, the disciples recognize him after he takes bread, gives thanks, blesses it, and gives it to them. They recognize the Good Shepherd in the breaking of the bread. Last week in the account of the disciples on the Sea of Tiberius, John recognizes him after he calls out, “Children!” and instructs them to cast the net over the right side of the boat. The sheep know the voice of the Shepherd, even when he is difficult to see because dawn is just breaking.
On this Good Shepherd Sunday, let us continue to rejoice in the Lord’s resurrection. May we hear his voice when he calls us by name; may we recognize him always in the breaking of the bread; and, may we follow him wherever he leads us.
On a personal note, effective May 14 through June 3, I will be taking paternity leave as our family will welcome our fourth daughter sometime around May 18. Please keep our family in your prayers as we hope for a safe delivery for Keight and a healthy daughter. I will then be back for weekends only June 4 through June 19. A blessed remainder of the Easter season to you!