Fourth Sunday of Easter – C

 

Good Shepherdsml

My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

 

OPENING PRAYER

Psalm 119

Daleth

My soul clings to the dust;

give me life in accord with your word.

I disclosed my ways and you answered me;

teach me your statutes.

Make me understand the way of your precepts;

I will ponder your wondrous deeds.

My soul is depressed;

lift me up according to your word.

Lead me from the way of deceit;

favor me with your law.

The way of loyalty I have chosen;

I have kept your judgments.

I cling to your testimonies, LORD;

do not let me come to shame.

I will run the way of your commandments,

for you will broaden my heart.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/psalms/119

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

lead us to a share in the joys of heaven,

so that the humble flock may reach

where the brave Shepherd has gone before.

Who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

close-to-corinth-1READING I

Acts 13:14, 43-52

Paul and Barnabas continued on from Perga

and reached Antioch in Pisidia.

On the sabbath they entered the synagogue and took their seats.

Many Jews and worshipers who were converts to Judaism

followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them

and urged them to remain faithful to the grace of God.

On the following sabbath almost the whole city gathered

to hear the word of the Lord.

When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy

and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said.

Both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said,

It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first,

but since you reject it

and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life,

we now turn to the Gentiles.

For so the Lord has commanded us,

I have made you a light to the Gentiles,

that you may be an instrument of salvation

to the ends of the earth.”

The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this

and glorified the word of the Lord.

All who were destined for eternal life came to believe,

and the word of the Lord continued to spread

through the whole region.

The Jews, however, incited the women of prominence who were worshipers

and the leading men of the city,

stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas,

and expelled them from their territory.

So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them,

and went to Iconium.

The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 2640 St. Luke in his gospel often expresses wonder and praise at the marvels of Christ and in his Acts of the Apostles stresses them as actions of the Holy Spirit: the community of Jerusalem, the invalid healed by Peter and John, the crowd that gives glory to God for that, and the pagans of Pisidia who “were glad and glorified the word of God.”1

1 Acts 2:47; 3:9; 4:21; 13:48.

APPLICATION

How wonderful are the ways of God! The Incarnation, his plan in creation to unite the human with the divine, thus raising man, the masterpiece of his creation, to the supernatural state of adopted sons, did not take place for centuries and centuries. Yet, as St. Paul says, it took place, “in the fullness of time,” at the right moment in history.

When Christ came, the known world, after many wars and upheavals, was united under one government–the Roman Empire. It was 99% pagan but, apart from the daily widespread immorality which paganism encouraged, there was very little belief or trust in the many pagan gods among the people. They saw them for what they were, the work of men’s hands, or earthly creatures more helpless than their adorers.

Thus was the Christian message welcomed by all right-minded pagans, for it was the news of a true God who was creator and governor of the whole universe, who had made man in order to share in God’s eternal happiness. This true God so loved mankind, that he sent his son on earth in our human nature to teach us to know and love our Creator. This son suffered and died as our representative, but was raised from the dead by God the Father, thus earning for us all the adopted sonship of God, and the guarantee that everyone who would follow his teaching would likewise be raised from the dead to an everlasting life.

This was surely startling, but pleasing, news. Coming as it did from men whose personal integrity and whose positive proofs were such as to convince any unprejudiced mind, it is little wonder that, in the life-time of the Apostles, all the important cities and towns of the Mediterranean side of the Roman Empire had their flourishing Christian communities.

But today, twenty centuries later, there are still some people who have not heard of the true God, and unfortunately there are millions more who have heard of him but deny him. God can and does provide, in his own ways, for those who through no fault of their own have not yet heard of him. But does he not expect some cooperation from us, who have the blessing and the consolation of his knowledge, in bringing the light of faith to these people?

Likewise, as regards those who know of God but ignore him, are we true Christians if by our daily lives we do little or nothing to make them stop and think of their folly, if they persevere in their practical atheism? Pope Pius XI once said that today we must all be apostles or else we become apostates. If our faith is a living faith, its light and heat will go out to enlighten and move others. If it is lukewarm or cold it will not save others. Think for a few moments on St. Paul today and compare your own appreciation of and zeal for the faith with his.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 100:1-2, 3, 5

We are his people, the sheep of his flock.

Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;

serve the LORD with gladness;

come before him with joyful song.

We are his people, the sheep of his flock.

Know that the LORD is God;

he made us, his we are;

his people, the flock he tends.

We are his people, the sheep of his flock.

The LORD is good:

his kindness endures forever,

and his faithfulness, to all generations.

We are his people, the sheep of his flock.

veilssantapollinare.jpg

 

READING II

Rev 7:9, 14b-17

I, John, had a vision of a great multitude,

which no one could count,

from every nation, race, people, and tongue.

They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,

wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.

Then one of the elders said to me,

These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress;

they have washed their robes

and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

For this reason they stand before God’s throne

and worship him day and night in his temple.

The one who sits on the throne will shelter them.

They will not hunger or thirst anymore,

nor will the sun or any heat strike them.

For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne

will shepherd them

and lead them to springs of life-giving water,

and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 775 “The Church, in Christ, is like a sacrament – a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men.”1 The Church’s first purpose is to be the sacrament of the inner union of men with God. Because men’s communion with one another is rooted in that union with God, the Church is also the sacrament of the unity of the human race. In her, this unity is already begun, since she gathers men “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues”;2 at the same time, the Church is the “sign and instrument” of the full realization of the unity yet to come.

CCC 1138 “Recapitulated in Christ,” these are the ones who take part in the service of the praise of God and the fulfillment of his plan: the heavenly powers, all creation (the four living beings), the servants of the Old and New Covenants (the twenty-four elders), the new People of God (the one hundred and forty-four thousand),3 especially the martyrs “slain for the word of God,” and the all-holy Mother of God (the Woman), the Bride of the Lamb,4 and finally “a great multitude which no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes, and peoples and tongues.”5

1 LG 1.

2 Rev 7:9.

3 Cf. Rev 4-5; 7:1-8; 14:1; Isa 6:2-3.

4 Rev 6:9-11; Rev 21:9; cf. 12.

5 Rev 7:9.

APPLICATION

As Christians we have every reason to think that we will one day, and soon, be among the countless number of saints whom St. John saw in his vision of heaven. I say “every reason,” because God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, has done everything that was necessary to bring us there. There is only one thing that can keep us from getting there. That is the one thing that is completely under our own control–our free will. There is no other thing, no other being on earth or outside the earth that can come between us and our eternal happiness, if we truly and sincerely desire to get it.

That is fine in theory, you may answer, but what of my human weaknesses, what of my ignorance, what of the bad example of those around me, what of the urgent bodily needs of myself or of my dependents, all of which prevent me from keeping God’s laws?

Put yourself at the judgment seat at this moment and see how these excuses, which seem plausible enough now, will look to you. We all have human weaknesses, but God knows that and expects us to overcome them. He does not demand the impossible. If we do something wrong because of ignorance for which we are not responsible, then God will not hold us responsible for that particular act. But if our ignorance is willed, if we refuse to learn when we should, then we are not excused.

Bad example can and does influence people. Those who give such example are responsible, not only for their own sins but for those of others whom they lead into sin. But it is when we freely follow the bad example that we are guilty. The pressing need to preserve one’s own or one’s dependent’s life allows one to take what belongs to another, provided this urgent need is not brought about by one’s own laziness or carelessness.

Yes, heaven is intended for all men. Some, but very few, we hope, will not get there, but they will have no one but themselves to blame. Better have our remorse now, repent in time and seek the straight and narrow road. The judgment hour is not the time for repentance.

the-forerunners-of-christ-with-saints-and-martyrs-fra-angelico

GOSPEL

Jn 10:27-30

Jesus said:

My sheep hear my voice;

I know them, and they follow me.

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.

No one can take them out of my hand.

My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,

and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.

The Father and I are one.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 590 Only the divine identity of Jesus’ person can justify so absolute a claim as “He who is not with me is against me”; and his saying that there was in him “something greater than Jonah,… greater than Solomon”, something “greater than the Temple”; his reminder that David had called the Messiah his Lord,1 and his affirmations, “Before Abraham was, I AM”, and even “I and the Father are one.”2

1 Cf. Mt 12:6, 30, 36, 37, 41-42.

2 Jn 8:58; 10:30.

APPLICATION

Christ, the Son of God, is our Shepherd. He has laid down his life for us, his sheep, as he himself said (Jn 10: 11). Today he tells us in these verses which have been read, that his sheep know his voice and that they follow him. We have a very simple criterion here for judging the truth and sincerity of our faith. Do we always know his voice, do we always follow him?

The enemies of Christ, and of our eternal welfare are blaring forth their Gospel of degradation and destruction from all sides. Their message to us is to forget the future, get all the pleasure and power and prosperity we can out of this short life. It matters not to them that by so doing we are bringing suffering, slavery and misery on our fellow-men. They wish us to think of ourselves only, to let the weaker or the milder take what they deserve.

What our modern self-appointed teachers of the new heaven-on-earth for the few forget, is that all this was tried before and failed miserably. The great empires of the past, built on the same pagan philosophy as that of our new “saviors,” flourished for a while. The Masters satiated with power and pleasure, the slaves living in despair and degradation are part of history–but one by one they collapsed from internal corruption.

But something more important still which our modern world-renovators forget, or do not like to remember, is that our time on this earth is but a passing phase in our life. Our true life, our unending existence, begins when we leave this world. This is no “old-wives’ tale,” this is no opium for the common people. This is rational deduction of the reasoning of the greatest minds in human history down through the centuries. It is the universal conviction of the common men of all ages and climates. Above all, and beyond fallible human reasoning, this is the revelation that God the Creator of the universe has deigned to give to men.

Today we are once more reminded of this one basic and solid fact of life. We are destined for an eternal life. Our Good Shepherd, Christ our Savior, promised to give us this eternal life, if we listen to his voice and follow him. Any sane man or woman who knows this true fact of life can turn a very deaf ear to the modem vendors of false, temporary happiness. “They have not the truth in them” (Jn. 8:44).

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

Christ the Good Shepherd

If “sacrifice” in its essence is simply returning to love and therefore divinization, worship now has a new aspect: the healing of wounded freedom, atonement, purification, deliverance from estrangement. The essence of worship, of sacrifice – the process of assimilation, of growth in love, and this the way into freedom – remains unchanged. But now it assumes the aspect of healing, the loving transformation of broken freedom, of painful expiation. Worship is directed to the Other in himself, to his all-sufficiency, but now it refers itself to the Other who alone can extricate me from the knot that I myself cannot untie. Redemption now needs the Redeemer. The Fathers saw this expressed in the parable of the Lost Sheep. For them, the sheep caught in the thorn bush and unable to find its way home is a metaphor for man in general. He cannot get out of the thicket and find his way back to God. The shepherd who rescues him and takes him home is the Logos himself, the eternal Word, the eternal nature, and as the God-Man he carries man the creature home to God. Man is given a homecoming. But now sacrifice takes the form of the cross of Christ, of the love that in dying makes a gift of itself. Such sacrifice has nothing to do with destruction. It is an act of new creation, the restoration of creation to its true identity. All worship is now a participation in this “Pasch” of Christ, in his “passing over” from divine to human, from death to life, to the unity of God and man.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 143, 1-11 Domine, exaudi

Lord, listen to my prayer; turn your ear to my appeal.

You are faithful, you are just; give answer.

Do not call your servant to judgment for no one is just in your sight.

The enemy pursues my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead, long forgotten.

Therefore my spirit fails; my heart is numb within me.

I remember the days that are past; I ponder all your works.

I muse on what your hand has wrought and to you I stretch out my hands.

Like a parched land my soul thirsts for you.

Lord, make haste and answer: for my spirit fails within me.

Do not hide your face lest I become like those in the grave.

In the morning let me know your love for I put my trust in you.

Make me know the way I should walk; to you I lift up my soul.

Rescue me, Lord, from my enemies; I have fled to you for refuge.

Teach me to do your will for you, O Lord, are my God.

Let your good Spirit guide me in ways that are level and smooth.

For your name’s sake, save my life; in your justice save my soul from distress.

In your love make an end of my foes; destroy all those who oppress me for I am your servant, O Lord. Amen.

http://www.catholicity.com/prayer/seven-penitential-psalms.html

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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