Fourth Sunday of Easter – Year B

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Robert J. Guessetto, O.S.A.
Our Lady of Good Counsel Friary
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Readings
Acts 4:8-12
Ps 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29
1 Jn 3:1-2
Jn 10:11-18

Most of us are proud of our heritage and family background. We easily attribute the good in us to those “good” genes. When someone compliments us, we often say: I have my mother (or father, grandmother) to thank for that! Yet, we know some things could be better. While thankful for what we have from our human legacy, it would be great to have even better spiritual genes.

Well, in fact, we have those spiritual genes from the Risen Christ and we speak of them as the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Sadly, though, the distractions of our world often keep us from recognizing and cultivating them. These 50 days of Easter, however, is the Church’s way of helping us reclaim this inheritance, to know who we are and to live as Christ’s witnesses promoting the Gospel.

Our readings today show clearly the transformation this can bring about, for example in the life of St. Peter. You remember how he had denied he was a follower of Jesus. Yet, today, in the reading from Acts he is a new man, preaching with passion and courage. He was used by the Lord to cure a sick man, and he is out there in front even with danger of imprisonment. Filled with the Holy Spirit he walks in the steps of the Good Shepherd to lead others to find in Jesus what he found and to bear witness to what changed his life.

Today’s Gospel of that Good Shepherd reminds us of the four ways we live with these new spiritual genes. WE are those who hear and recognize his voice; He knows us; we have chosen to follow him. Hearing and following means being attentive to God’s word and teaching and responding in obedience. And he gives us an incredible gift and a victory: When we listen and follow he gives us eternal life. Not only through our baptism in which we were washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb, but through our participation in the life of the Church, we will share his resurrection. Death is not an end for us. Rather, it is a passage to a place prepared for us in heaven. But, even more, we believe that eternal life adds a quality, a fullness, a richness to our life even now. This is what we are given each time we receive communion as we will today – listen, then, to the prayers. St. Augustine teaches us how this is: because we were baptized in Christ, everything that happened to Jesus happens to us.

The work of the Good Shepherd is carried on through the Church – Pope Francis is called the supreme shepherd. Pope Francis personally brings the care of the Good Shepherd to many, as he did last month in Iraq. The personal care of the Good Shepherd for you and your families continues here in your parish through your priests, deacons and lay ministers. When your children or grandchildren are baptized, it is Jesus baptizing. When couples are married, it is Jesus blessing their life together. When the sick are visited and anointed, it is Jesus, the Good Shepherd, caring for your loved ones.

This “bringing to others the good news” is also the desire and the call which the Lord is planting in the hearts of young women and men who have the capacity to give their lives to be religious, teachers, pastors and shepherds in the Church today. We pray together today that they will respond generously to the Lord’s call.

The Risen Lord is close to us even now. Allow Him to be at work in you, going out to others with patience and love even as we live through this pandemic. And there’s the important word: live. Our prayer and worship today is a word against the belief that we are only half-alive. No. The Risen shepherd, Christ, is with us. It is he who brings us fullness of life and incredibly rich spiritual genes!