Fourth Sunday of Easter, Cycle B – May 3, 2009 Scripture Readings First Acts 4:8-12 Second 1 John 3: 1-2 Gospel John 10:11-18 Prepared by: Fr. Stephen Dominic Hayes, OP 1. Subject Matter

The fourth Sunday of Easter is often called "Good Shepherd" Sunday. The Gospels on this day explore Christ's reference to himself as shepherd of his flock. Pastorally speaking, this is also in many dioceses a day to speak about vocations to the priesthood and religious life. At first glance, these would seem to be peculiar readings with which to discuss vocations, as they emphasize the personal character of Christ's pastoring of the Church. However, this living address the heart of Christ to the heart of the believer is seen powerfully manifested, first, in the case of the consecrated religious, to whom is entrusted a prophetic and eschatological witness based in the sacrament of Baptism, and, secondly, the vocation which makes the personal ministry of Christ through grace personally communicated in the sign of Holy Orders. This latter sacrament is the instrument through which Christ continues to pastor his Church, directly and personally, through preaching, governance, and sacrament. Thus the connection of the good Shepherd with an instruction about vocations is thus not arbitrary. Christ is the good Shepherd who does not desert his sheep. This is a royal, priestly, and even divine title in the Scriptures; and points up the fact that it is Christ himself, and not the bishops, including the Pope, who directs his church and continues to lead and direct his people personally.

2. Exegetical Notes

The reading from the Acts of the Apostles presents us with Peter is presentation of the life and work of Christ risen from the dead is the cause of the healing of the lame man, which is done in the name of Jesus. From his place in heaven, the Good Shepherd continues to heal and herd and increase his flock by the grace which he pours out upon his church, and in a particular way, upon the apostolic ministry represented in this text by Peter and his companion John. The brief reading from the first letter of John emphasizes the crucial effect of what Christ is accomplished in his death and resurrection, that is the gift of the Father of the Son who has become the world's Savior. The spiritual adoption of says his children through Jesus Christ

has, as its present manifestation a life of hope in what is to come, the proof of which is seen in the Christian' s struggle to put on Christ's virtue and life even in the present age.

Today's Gospel selection focuses on Jesus’ personal ministry to the church, and revolves around the metaphor of the Good Shepherd, that is, the shepherd who is willing to give his life for the sheep. The image of the shepherd is one of great antiquity, and a commonplace in ancient cultures referring to the office of priests and kings. In the ancient world, it is they who guide the people safely, and mediate for them before gods, and make sure they are fed and protected, as shepherd care for sheep. The shepherd is expected to find pasture and water for the flock, and to protect it from the wolf, the lion and the bear. (Cf. 1 Samuel 17: 34f; Isaiah 31;4,etc. In the context of Israel, therefore, which originally by the plan of God is ruled through the charisms of prophets and judges, and not, as other nations, by kings, the title of Shepherd becomes a divine title ( Numbers 27:17), as is evidenced by the Psalms (cf. Psalms. 23, 49, 80). After the establishment of the monarchy, David's own personal history as a shepherd called by God from the flocks to shepherd God's people as King reinforces the connection between the sacramental quality of Israelite kingship, and the divine title of Shepherd of Israel (2 Samuel 5:2, 7:7. In the case at hand, Jesus combines with his exposition of his own role as the Good Shepherd the name of God revealed to Moses as it appears in Exodus 3 – the Septuagint translating the holy name “I AM” as “Egō eimi” - and relentlessly repeats the connection throughout the passage (vv. 7 [twice], 9, 11, 14). This instrumentality does not preclude the setting up of human instruments through which God shall shepherd his people himself; this is in fact a pattern well evidenced in the prophets (e.g, Ez 34:12-23). Jesus contrasts the mercenary service of the bad shepherds - the hirelings who have come before him, who fleece the sheep to their own benefit but will not risk their lives for them with his own service as the Good Shepherd, characterized by his willingness to “lay down his life” for the flock. This notion is contrasted at the end of the passage, and an explicit reference to the passion and resurrection, for the Good Shepherd lays down his life precisely “in order to take it up again” (v.17); a thing that the Son does in complete harmony with the Father's will and a sacrifice (v. 15). In the extension of grace the whole world which comes through the Easter event, not only are the scattered sheep of Israel to be gathered together; but that the Gentiles to must be brought into a single fold, hearing the voice of Christ's in faith and heeding his direction (v.16).

3. References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

CCC 553: … the "power of the keys" designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his resurrection: "Feed my sheep" (John 21:15-17). … Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom. CCC 553: … Indeed, out of love for his Father and for men, whom the Father wants to save, Jesus freely accepted his Passion and death: "no one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord." Hence the sovereign freedom of God's Son as he went up to his death.

CCC 614: This sacrifice of Christ is unique; it completes and surpasses allother sacrifices. First, it is a gift from God the father himself… . at the same time, it is the offering of the Son of God made man, who in freedom and love offered his life to his Father through the Holy Spirit in reparation for our disobedience. CCC 1584: Since it is ultimately Christ who acts and effects salvation through the ordained minister, the unworthiness of the latter does not prevent Christ from acting. ...

4. Patristic Commentary and Other Authorities

St. Augustine of Hippo ( in St. Thomas’ Catena Aurea) There is but one Shepherd. For though the rulers of the Church, those who are her sons, and not hirelings, are shepherds, they are all members of that one Shepherd. His office of Shepherd He has permitted His members to bear. Peter is a shepherd, and all the other Apostles: all good Bishops are shepherds. But none of us calls himself the door. He could not have added good, if there were not bad shepherds as well. They are thieves and robbers; or at least mercenaries. … We must love the shepherd, beware of the wolf, tolerate the hireling. For the hireling is useful so long as he sees not the wolf, the thief, and the robber. When he sees them, he flees. … Indeed he would not be a hireling, did he not receive wages from the hirer. Sons wait patiently for the eternal inheritance of their father; the hireling looks eagerly for the temporal wages from his hirer; and yet the tongues of both speak abroad the glory of Christ. … The hireling hurts, in that he does wrong, not in that he speaks right: the grape bunch hangs amid thorns; pluck the grape, avoid the thorn. Many that seek temporal advantages in the Church, preach Christ, and through them Christ's voice is heard; and the sheep follow not the hireling, but the voice of the Shepherd heard through the hireling. St. Augustine of Hippo ( in St. Thomas’ Catena Aurea): The sheep hitherto spoken of are those of the stock of Israel according to the flesh. But there were others of the stock of Israel, according to faith, Gentiles, who were as yet out of the fold; predestinated, but not yet gathered together. They are not of this fold, because they are not of the race of Israel, but they will be of this fold: Them also I must bring. Theophylact (( in St. Thomas’ Catena Aurea ) : For there is one sign of baptism for all, and one Shepherd, even the Word of God. Let the Manichean mark; there is but one fold and one Shepherd set forth both in the Old and New Testaments. St Gregory the Great ( in St. Thomas’ Catena Aurea ) : But whether a man be a shepherd or an hireling, cannot be told for certain, except in a time of trial. In tranquil times, the hireling generally stands watch like the shepherd. But when the wolf comes, then every one shows with what spirit he stood watch over the flock. … And He adds what that goodness is, for our imitation: The good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep. He did what He bade, He set the example of what He commanded: He laid down His life for the sheep, that He might convert His body and blood in our Sacrament, and feed with His flesh the sheep He had redeemed. St. John Chrysostom ( in St. Thomas’ Catena Aurea ) : As they had often plotted to kill Him, He tells them their efforts will be useless, unless He is willing. I have such power over My own life, that no one can take it from Me, against My will. This is not true of men. We have not the power of laying down our own lives, except we put ourselves to death. … Our Lord alone has this power. And this being true, it is true also that He can take it again when He pleases: And I have power to take it again: which words declare beyond a doubt a

resurrection. That they might not think His death a sign that God had forsaken Him, He adds, This commandment have I received from My Father; i.e. to lay down My life, and take it again. By which we must not understand that He first waited to hear this commandment, and had to learn His work; He only shows s that that work which He voluntarily undertook, was not against the Father's will. 5. Examples from the Saints and Other Exemplars

St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Romans, 9: Remember the Church of Syria in your prayers; it has God for its pastor now, in place of myself, and Jesus Christ alone will have the oversight of it -He, and your own love. St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrneans, 8: Follow your bishop, every one of you, as obediently as Jesus Christ followed the Father. Obey your clergy too, as you would the Apostles; give your deacons the same reverence you would to a command from God. Make sure that no step affecting the church is overtaken by anyone without the Bishop' s sanction. The sole Eucharist you should consider valid is the one that is celebrated by the bishop himself, or by some person authorized by him. Where the bishop is to be seen, let all his people will be; just as wherever Jesus Christ is present, we have the Catholic Church. Nor is it permissible to conduct baptisms or love-feasts without the bishop. On the other hand, what ever does have his sanction can be sure of God's approval too. This is the way to make certain of the soundness and validity of anything you do. St. Phillip Neri, founder of the Oratory, manifests well the attentiveness to the voice of Christ as it is made known in the voices of our clergy and other spiritual authorities, such as confessors and spiritual directors. “He who wishes for anything but Christ does not know what he wishes; he who asks for anything but Christ does not know what he is asking; he who works, and not for Christ, does not know what he is doing.” He insisted that the primary relationship in the life of anyone striving for virtue is one of obedience to the spiritual father. “He always asked advice, even on affairs of minor importance. His constant counsel to his penitents was, that they should not trust in themselves, but always take the advice of others, and get as many prayers as they could.” “They who really wish to advance in the way of God,” he said, “must give themselves up into the hands of their superiors always and in everything. . . . There is nothing which gives greater security to our actions, or more effectively cuts the snares the devil lays for us, than to follow another person’s will, rather than our own, in doing good.” One anecdote shows how seriously St Philip took his own counsel in regard to obedience. He was on friendly terms with Ignatius of Loyola, who came to visit him often with letters from a fellow Jesuit, Francis Xavier, who was working as a missionary in India and the Far East. As he listened to St Ignatius read these letters, St Philip found himself burning with desire to follow in St Francis’s footsteps, and there came a time when he had gathered twenty or so men and was ready to set sail with them for pagan territories. But he would not go until he had consulted a priest whom he had come to trust, a Trappist monk from Tre Fontane named Vincenzo Ghettini. This priest told St Philip, “Your Indies are in Rome,” and he accepted the advice with peaceful resignation. This conversation took place in 1556; for the next forty years, St Philip worked diligently in Rome and never left the City. Lumen Gentium 6: The Church is, accordingly, a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ. It is also the flock of which God himself foretold that he would be the shepherd, and whose sheep, even though governed by human shepherds, are unfailingly

nourished and led by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and Prince of Shepherds who gave his life for his sheep. 6. Quotations from Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI: “If the priest is defined as being a servant of Jesus Christ, this means that his life is substantially determined in terms of a relationship: being oriented towards his Lord as a servant constitutes the essence of his office, which it dost extends to his very being. He is a servant of Christ so as to be, on the basis of Christ, for his sake and along with him, a servant of men. The fact of being oriented towards Christ is not in contradiction to his relationship to the congregation (to the church) but is the basis of that relationship and is what gives it all its depth. … precisely because they the priest belongs to Christ, he belongs to men in a quite radical sense. Only in this way is he able to be so profoundly and so unconditionally dedicated to them.” Pope Benedict XVI: We could say that a "character" means a belonging that is part of the person's very existence. To that extent the image of "character" express is in its turn the same "being related to." And, indeed this is the kind of belonging we can do nothing about: the initiative for this comes from the proprietor-from Christ. … To that extent, then, the term "character" describes the nature of the service of Christ that is contained in the priesthood as having to do with our being; and at the same time it makes clear what is meant by its being sacramental … Belonging to the Lord who became a servant is belonging for the sake of those who are his. This means that the sermon can give, in the holy sign, what he is unable to give from his own resources; he is dispensing the Holy Spirit; he isn't solving people from sins; he is making present the sacrifice of Christ in himself, in his Sacred Body and Blood-all these are privileges reserved by God, which no man can get for himself and no congregation can delegate to him.

7. Other Considerations

It is precisely through the sacraments of grace of the flock of Christ is fed, especially through the gift of the Holy Eucharist, which is the sacraments around which the Church assembles and manifests itself around its Good Shepherd each Sunday, and by which it which it receives from the hand of Christ through the apostolic ministry the nourishment which is Christ himself. For this reason, vocations especially to the priesthood are crucial to the life of the Church - for if there is no priest, there can be no Mass. so that the voice of the good Shepherd is not still, we must all pray and work for locations to the priesthood, but the voice of the good Shepherd may be tired by the flock by sacred preaching, and the flock be fed and guided through Savior' s sacraments. Vocations to the bishopric, the priesthood, and the diaconate are crucial; there are never enough laborers, it seems, given the size of the potential harvest of souls; and should be prayed for; however, we should not neglect as well the need to pray for those who are already bishops, priests, and deacons, but the voice of the good Shepherd may be heard in them, that our clergy be wholly united to his Heart, and that his goodness be seen in their fidelity to their ministry, and with the charity and gentleness with which they show forth the presence of the Good Shepherd. Religious vocations are important as well, since these persons who have heard Christ calling them to a more narrow, albeit prophetic, way are powerful witnesses to the reality of the activity of the risen Lord in their life. One does not enter religious life, forsaking property,

family, and even one's own will to be an "eschatological sign" of the Kingdom; one enters consecrated life to share life of more intimate union with Jesus Christ.

Married life is a vocation marked by a sacrament of Christ, as is holy orders. Here, the voice of the good Shepherd someone's two people in their mutual love for manifests prophetically the love of the good Shepherd for his flock precisely in their selfless service of one another, and a commitment to build up the family of God through their building up of a "domestic church" of Christians who know the Lord from the earliest years and serve him.

Recommended Resources Benedict XVI, Pope. Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI. Yonkers, Ignatius Press/ Magnificat 2006. New York: Magnificat: SAS, 2006. Copyright

Brown, Raymond E., S.S., Fitzmeyer, Joseph, S.J., and Murphy, Roland E., O. Carm. The Jerome Biblical Commentary. Two Vols. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968. Jurgens, William A. The Faith of the Early Fathers. 3 Vols. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1979. Moloney, Francis J., S.D.B. The Gospel of John. Sacra Pagina Series, Vol. 4: Daniel J Harrington, ed. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1998. Stanforth, Maxwell, Ed. and Trans. Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers. Revised translation, introduction and new editorial material by Andrew Louth. London: Penguin Books, 1987. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels Collected out of the Works of the Fathers. St. John’s Gospel . Albany, N.Y.: Preserving Christian Publications, Inc., 2001. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels Collected out of the Works of the Fathers. St. John’s Gospel . Catechetics Online: http://www.catecheticsonline.com/CatenaAurea-John20.php