Gospel Reflection for the Forth Sunday of Easter

Gospel Reflection for  Sunday the  25th of April 2021

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4rd Sunday of Easter

John 10:11-18


Sometimes in the course of a conversation a light dawns on the listener that there is something very important that the speaker wants to communicate. Before any words are spoken the body language of the speaker is telling a story that this is a difficult thing to talk about and share. Consciously or indeed unconsciously the speaker is testing the waters about what can and cannot be said. Is it safe to speak? Will the person be able to hear me? Patience on both sides is needed to allow the words to take flight. What follows might just be a whispered few words but that is enough.  As the words take flight the speaker feels lighter. The act of speaking brings its own liberation. It is as if the act of bringing something to the surface of words is a healing for the speaker. As listeners wetake our cues from the speaker. If they want to talk about an issue we try to engage with them. Too often we might fall into solution mode. We listen to respond with a solution. We forget that more often we are called to witness, to hear with the heart, to the story of the other.

​How then we to make sense of today this Gospel? Jesus is the speaker. He has something to say, something indeed that is difficult to talk about. The subject is his own death. Four times in this Gospel passage Jesus refers to his own impending passion and death. Four times he raises the subject of his own mortality. He presents his own death as an inevitable reality. If we as listeners take our cue from the speaker how do we make sense of the words of Jesus? How do we feel about hearing about issues of life and death? How do make sense of pain and suffering? Whatever we might think and feel about these issues the genius of Jesus is that he presents us with another vision of loss. He presents himself as the Good Shepherd. In our context there is limited connectionwith shepherds and the world of shepherding. This is an alien territory for most of us. In the time of Jesus it was a different story. There was always a connection with shepherds who were part and parcel of everyday life in the hillsides around villages and towns. There was also in the understanding of the people a sense of leadership as a shepherding exercise. The leader par excellence was Moses who had shepherded hispeople through the Red Sea. So the image of a shepherd spoke to a wider sense of someone leading a people as part of God’s plan. Jesus lays out his vision of what a Good Shepherd is. There is the sense of intimacy between the Shepherd and the flock. The voice that is known is a voice that speaks to the heart. There is the sense of care and protection. There is the sense of sacrifice, a willingness to lay down life for another. There is a sense of honesty and integrity.  This is an image that people can understand and indeed appreciate. There is also the sense of Jesus explaining what he is not. He is not the hired hand who has no interest in the safety of the flock. The Good Shepherd is invested in the life of the flock. They are a part of each other.

​Two thousand years after the death of Jesus his words still speak to our hearts as a source of inspiration and hope. They also continue to challenge us in so many ways. Jesus doesn’t always tell us what we want to hear but if we listen carefully we will discover the message we need to hear. In a story of loss is a tale of being found. We find ourselves loved by the Good Shepherd. It is indeed a marvellous love. Jesus is telling us of his passing from this world while also leaving us the powerful image of himself as the Good Shepherd. This is the way that Jesus wants to be remembered. Let us be glad and rejoice that we are held in the loving embrace of the Good Shepherd today and every day.

-Fr Paddy Moran CSSp