Fourth Sunday of Easter • Year A

George F. Riley, O.S.A.
1935 – 2022

Acts 2:14a, 36-41
Ps 23: 1-3a, 3b4, 5, 6
1 Pt 2:20b-25
Jn 10:1-10

Next month at many a June commencement throughout the land, you will hear a good deal about sheepskins from the people who rarely see a flock of sheep and never see a shepherd.

Many of you may be unaware that the term “pastor,” of which there are many in this diocese of Camden, is the Latin word for “shepherd.”

Christ took the term “shepherd” as His symbol when He declared, “I am the Good Shepherd.” It was a picture, an image as meaningful for the people of his time as “police officer” and “surgeon” is familiar to us. Shepherds are men who are quiet, vigilant, alert, and devoted – and God makes great use of them in salvation history. Abel the righteous man, pleasing in the sight of God, was a shepherd. Moses was minding his sheep when he saw the burning bush and heard God Himself. “You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (Ps 77:21). When Jacob and his sons came to Egypt in search of food, “Pharaoh asked them, ‘What is your occupation?’ And they answered, ‘We, your servants, like our ancestors, are shepherds’” (Gen 47:3). Later, God “chose David his servant, took him from the sheepfolds. from tending ewes God brought him, to shepherd Jacob, his people” (Ps 78:70-71).

With majestic simplicity that our Savior said, “I am the Good Shepherd.” And then He said, “The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” That is why we see the rich meaning

of Easter as watching the Shepherd of Nazareth climb the Hill of Calvary, searching for us. “For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” Then with bleeding hands, He carried a saved world into the sheepcote of Heaven.

If any of you get depressed and dejected at times about your sins of the past, or are distrustful of God’s mercy here in the present, you should remember the great portrait that Christ left of Himself: a Lord who so loved the sinner that He would leave ninety-nine sheep to go after one stray. This is how He wants us to remember Him… as the Good Shepherd.

In the Temple of Jerusalem, the sheep was the chief animal of sacrifice offered to God in atonement for sin. That is why the first time that John the Baptist saw Christ on the water’s edge, he shouted out in awe, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Behold the sacrifice that will be offered to the Almighty for the sins of the world! Behold the source of abundant life!

The Good Shepherd said, “I know mind and mine know me.” Christ our Shepherd calls us in His own unmistakable voice, a voice we hear from many throats yet all his voice: parents and teachers, Scripture and tradition, friends and conscience. Sometimes we pay the call of Christ no heed, but like distracted sheep we find ourselves plunging down a rocky hillside or into a hidden pit.

Today is the time to think of the Good Shepherd who walks in those out of the way places to search out sad cases, wounded souls, pieces of wrecked humanity.

If by God’s grace you happen to be one of the few who have not strayed, then pray for your brothers and sisters. Pray to Mary to intercede. Why Mary? Well, in the grotto of Bethlehem, shepherds were her first guests. In the Grotto of Lourdes, it was to a shepherdess that she appeared as the Immaculate Conception. It was on the Hill of Fatima that three children saw her while they were minding their sheep. She is partial to sheep, and intercedes to bring even the most hopeless back to the Church – that church which is but one big flock of which her Son is the Good Shepherd.