Catholic Mass Readings and Reflection April 21, 2024


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R/. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

V/. Alleluia

R/. Alleluia

V/. . I am the good shepherd, says the Lord; I know my own, and my own know me.

R/. Alleluia.

At that time: Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

1. Today is the 4th Easter Sunday, and this is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday. The focus of the Word of God is, God is the Good Shepherd. This image is very powerful and significant. This implies an essential and intimate bonding. It is a covenant,  a commitment. 

2. Like a true shepherd, he protects us, is attentive and sensitive to us, deeply caring and concerned toward us. We matter a lot for him. Our safety, growth and happiness is his abiding concern. His shepherding is not a mere duty as a hirling. It is a passion. He owns us up. That is why, for our sake, for our safety and wellbeing, he goes to any extent, even to the point of dying for us.

3. This is what Jesus did for us: he protects us from every attack of the evil. He safeguards and guards us against every snare of the enemy. He directs and guides us in the right path. He leads us to the safe zones. He preserves and sustains us in clear and steady ways.

He cares, nourishes and strengthens us in nurturing grounds. And, in order to  extricate us from the iron hold of the evil, he immolates his own self. In order to cleanse us from the bruises and blows of sin, he sheds his own blood.

4. Now, on this celebration of the Good Shepherd Sunday, our first duty is to understand and accept the Lord as our supreme shepherd. He is the first and the best. No other shall claim our allegiance to them. We shall not owe our loyalty and commitment to anyone else. We shall not be wooed or misguided by any false shepherd. We shall not run behind any false shepherding.

5. Therefore, on this day, first of all, we shall deepen our trust in our unique shepherd. Confide in him. Not enough. It is not enough to know and affirm what he is, or what he does. But much more important is, what we are, and what we are to him, what we do to  him. In other words, he is always a good shepherd to us. But how much are we good sheep?

6. Now, our whole identity and  the essence of our discipleship is our identity as the sheep that belong to the one supreme shepherd who is the Lord himself. The purpose and the quality of our vocation as the sheep consist in our bonding with the shepherd and experiencing the effect and the fruit of this bonding.

7. This bonding between the shepherd and the sheep is characterised by the spirit and ambience of belonging and intimacy. He is OUR shepherd and we are HIS sheep. Such an owning and closeness do not pertain to others who can be manipulators and destroyers of the sheep.

8. In the light of this image of shepherd and sheep, it is for us to check sincerely and see how much we nurture and grow, foster and testify this bonding with the shepherd. How deep is our belonging and closeness with him? How eager, attentive and prompt is our listening to him? How ready and willing we are to be guided and led by him? How loyal and committed we are to follow him and walk in his footsteps? 

9. It is also a clear indication to all those who are acclaimed as shepherds of the sheep of the faithful. There may not be something invalid in it since they are sharers and collaborators with the chief shepherd. But it should be very clear that there are no co-shepherds. There is only one shepherd and that is the Lord.

10. All are only sheep. The so-called shepherds are only caretakers and stewards, at the most, “herdmen”. The title of ‘shepherd’ or ‘pastor’ is nothing dignitary or status symbol or vesting with a secular power or authority. This is in no way diluting the sacredness or the merit of these stewards. 

11. Certainly they are unique in being specially chosen and anointed by the Spirit and appointed as priests, ministers and leaders. But it is not a position wielding powers and rights. It is a sanctified and sanctifying obligation. It indicates more the sacred duty and ministry of shepherding, that is, loving, caring, guiding, serving the sheep and thus leading to the chief shepherd and enabling them to receive and enjoy life in full measures.

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