Fourth Sunday of Easter – A


‘A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy;

I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”


Prayer to Jesus, The Good Shepherd

Faithful Shepherd,

You are not a hireling who runs away at the sight of danger,

but Your fidelity was tested

and proven on the wood of the Cross.

Accept the gift of our gratitude

for Your marvelous care.

Help us to hear and follow Your voice.

Watchful Shepherd,

who protects the flock

and searches tirelessly

for those who wander from the fold,

retrieve the lost and bring them home.

Tend and heal their wounds.

Good Shepherd,

who lays down His Life for His sheep,

nourish Your people with the Bread of Life,

that we may reflect Your likeness

and enjoy the spring of Living Water that never ends.



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.



Acts 2:14a, 36-41

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven,

raised his voice, and proclaimed:

“Let the whole house of Israel know for certain

that God has made both Lord and Christ,

this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart,

and they asked Peter and the other apostles,

“What are we to do, my brothers?”

Peter said to them,

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you,

in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins;

and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

For the promise is made to you and to your children

and to all those far off,

whomever the Lord our God will call.”

He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them,

“Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

Those who accepted his message were baptized,

and about three thousand persons were added that day.


CCC 447 Jesus ascribes this title to himself in a veiled way when he disputes with the Pharisees about the meaning of Psalm 110, but also in an explicit way when he addresses his apostles.1 Throughout his public life, he demonstrated his divine sovereignty by works of power over nature, illnesses, demons, death and sin.

CCC 449 By attributing to Jesus the divine title “Lord”, the first confessions of the Church’s faith affirm from the beginning that the power, honor and glory due to God the Father are due also to Jesus, because “he was in the form of God”,2 and the Father manifested the sovereignty of Jesus by raising him from the dead and exalting him into his glory.3

CCC 597 The historical complexity of Jesus’ trial is apparent in the Gospel accounts. The personal sin of the participants (Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate) is known to God alone. Hence we cannot lay responsibility for the trial on the Jews in Jerusalem as a whole, despite the outcry of a manipulated crowd and the global reproaches contained in the apostles’ calls to conversion after Pentecost.4 Jesus himself, in forgiving them on the cross, and Peter in following suit, both accept “the ignorance” of the Jews of Jerusalem and even of their leaders.5 Still less can we extend responsibility to other Jews of different times and places, based merely on the crowd’s cry: “His blood be on us and on our children!”, a formula for ratifying a judicial sentence.6 As the Church declared at the Second Vatican Council:

… [N]either all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his Passion. .. [T]he Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy Scripture.7

CCC 731 On the day of Pentecost when the seven weeks of Easter had come to an end, Christ’s Passover is fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, manifested, given, and communicated as a divine person: of his fullness, Christ, the Lord, pours out the Spirit in abundance.8

CCC 1287 This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah’s, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people.9 On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit,10 a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost.11 Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim “the mighty works of God,” and Peter declared this outpouring of the Spirit to be the sign of the messianic age.12 Those who believed in the apostolic preaching and were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit in their turn.13

CCC 1433 Since Easter, the Holy Spirit has proved “the world wrong about sin,”14 i.e., proved that the world has not believed in him whom the Father has sent. But this same Spirit who brings sin to light is also the Consoler who gives the human heart grace for repentance and conversion.15

1 Cf. Mt 22:41-46; cf. Acts 2:34-36; Heb 1:13; Jn 13:13.

2 Cf. Acts 2:34 – 36; Rom 9:5; Titus 2:13; Rev 5:13; Phil 2:6.

3 Cf. Rom 10:9; I Cor 12:3; Phil 2:9-11.

4 Cf. Mk 15:11; Acts 2:23, 36; 3:13-14; 4:10; 5:30; 7:52; 10:39; 13:27-28; I Th 2:14-15.

5 Cf. Lk 23:34; Acts 3:17.

6 Mt 27:25; cf. Acts 5:28; 18:6.

7 NA 4.

8 Cf. Acts 2:33-36.

9 Cf. Ezek 36:25-27; Joel 3:1-2.

10 Cf. Lk 12:12; Jn 3:5-8; 7:37-39; 16:7-15; Acts 1:8.

11 Cf. Jn 20:22; Acts 2:1-14.

12 Acts 2:11; Cf. 2:17-18.

13 Cf. Acts 2:38.

14 Cf. Jn 16:8-9.

15 Cf. Jn 15:26; Acts 2:36-38; John Paul II, DeV 27-48.


One of the many proofs of the truth of our Christian religion, is the rapidity with which it spread from Jerusalem over the then known world. Within a generation, before the last of the Apostles died, there was scarcely a town or city in the Middle East, in North Africa, in Asia Minor, Greece and the southern parts of the Roman empire, including its capital Rome, in which the faith of Christ had not a foothold and center. There is no human explanation for this historical fact. Its explanation is from above, and the brief summary of what happened in Jerusalem on that first Pentecost day, read to us today, is proof of this divine intervention.

The change wrought in the Apostles by the descent of the Holy Spirit, as witnessed by St. Peter’s fearless accusation of the leaders of the Jews, the effect of Peter’s brief exposition of the essence of the Christian faith, as was proved by the conversion of three thousand Jews and the gift of foreign languages given to Galilean fishermen–these things demand more than a natural cause. If an innovator offers men a life of freedom of pleasure, of plenty without any effort on the part of his followers, he would attract most, if not all, men and women. But Christ demanded that his followers should carry their cross daily, should mortify their senses, should forgive their enemies, should share the little they had with more needy fellowmen–all in all a life which had no attraction for an earthly man. But in return he promised them a future, unending life which would satisfy every rational desire of the human heart. And he proved by his resurrection that he was able to fulfill this promise, because he was the Son of God who had come on earth for this very purpose–namely, to give mankind a share in the eternal kingdom of his Father.

The first Christians so appreciated this eternal reward that the duties and obligations of the Christian faith seemed nothing to them in comparison. They looked forward anxiously to the end of their exile on this earth so that they could be citizens of their heavenly home. Those of them who suffered martyrdom for their faith went gladly to their death, for they were, delighted to be a little more like to their divine Master who had won for them their future everlasting happiness.

How does our faith compare with theirs? Do we really appreciate what Christ’s life, death and resurrection have won for us? Do we think often and seriously on our future life? Do we make its attainment the true goal and purpose of our exile here below? An honest answer to these questions today will make us take a second look at ourselves, and on our reaction our eternal future may depend.



Ps 23:1-2a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

In verdant pastures he gives me repose;

beside restful waters he leads me;

he refreshes my soul.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

He guides me in right paths

for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk in the dark valley

I fear no evil; for you are at my side.

With your rod and your staff

that give me courage.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

You spread the table before me

in the sight of my foes;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Only goodness and kindness follow me

all the days of my life;

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD

for years to come.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.



1 Pt 2:20b-25


If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good,

this is a grace before God.

For to this you have been called,

because Christ also suffered for you,

leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.

He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.

When he was insulted, he returned no insult;

when he suffered, he did not threaten;

instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly.

He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross,

so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.

By his wounds you have been healed.

For you had gone astray like sheep,

but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.


CCC 618 The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the “one mediator between God and men”.1 But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, “the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery” is offered to all men.2 He calls his disciples to “take up [their] cross and follow [him]”,3 for “Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example so that [we] should follow in his steps.”4 In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries.5 This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering.6

Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.7

1 1 Tim 2:5.

2 GS 22 # 5; cf. # 2.

3 Mt 16:24.

4 I Pt 2:21.

5 Cf Mk 10:39; Jn 21:18-19; Col 1:24.

6 Cf. Lk 2:35.

7 St. Rose of Lima: cf. P. Hansen, Vita mirabilis (Louvain, 1668).


Although the words we have read were addressed by St. Peter to slaves who had become Christians, they have a lesson today for each one of as. Even if we are living in what we may proudly claim to be a “free country” (and not, as millions of our fellowman are, under a despotic rule which makes their lives in many respects worse by far than that of the slaves in the Roman empire), we too have many things and persons who interfere justly or unjustly with what we claim as our God-given rights. Day after day, we are called on to exercise the great Christian virtue of patience.

To begin with the home, there is often need for the exercise of patience, sometimes to a heroic degree, in our family life. There are nagging wives, suspicious, ill-tempered husbands, disloyal and disobedient children, days of hostile silence or cold-war treatment, cutting and untrue remarks, provocative behavior, false accusations–the list, alas, could go on.

Outside the home, in our dealings with local and state authorities and with our neighbors in general, how many times each week, if not each day, are we not called on to practice Christian patience, recommended by St. Peter to the slaves of his day! For the fact is that free though we may claim to be, our freedom is very limited by the necessity of living in the society of our fellowman. Even outside the iron and bamboo curtain countries, we all have to live under some form of slavery, benevolent and necessary though it be.

Every man of sense will have to admit that restrictions on his personal liberty and his freedom to do as he pleases, must, be accepted if be is to live in peace in the society of others. Where these restrictions are unjust and malicious and we have no legal, peaceful redress, we must practice Christian patience and prayer. St. Peter reminds us of the noble example of innocent suffering given us by our Lord and leader, Christ himself. Our sacrifice will rarely go to that extreme, but even if it should, and it is in the cause of justice, we should be proud to be found worthy, to imitate our Divine Master.

We must always be ready, too, to help by word and by deed, a fellowman who is struggling to bear injustices with Christian patience. Today, more than ever before, people are taking a true Christian interest in the sufferings of their fellowman, wherever they may be. This noble effort is worthy of the assistance and cooperation of every Christian, indeed of every man who claims to be human.

If every Christian family became actively interested in helping a more needy family, at home or abroad, there would be less time for family squabbles and dissensions; their united interest in Christian well-doing would make each one more Christian and more united. If employers and employees, in the relatively prosperous cities and countries, united in a Christian endeavor to help find food and employment for the starving millions in other less fortunate lands, there would be less time for unnecessary local or national disruption of production, which only produces waste and want for themselves and thousands of others.

True Christian charity, which is the mother of patience, need not necessarily begin at home, but its fruits will return a hundredfold to the home and to the society which practices it. If we be true followers of our Good Shepherd, we will help him to feed all his hungry sheep on this earth and in as far as in us lies, we will, by word and example, help to lead them eventually to the eternal pastures he has prepared for them.




Jn 10:1-10

Jesus said:

“Amen, amen, I say to you,

whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate

but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.

But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.

The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice,

as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

When he has driven out all his own,

he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him,

because they recognize his voice.

But they will not follow a stranger;

they will run away from him,

because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”

Although Jesus used this figure of speech,

the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them.

So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you,

I am the gate for the sheep.

All who came before me are thieves and robbers,

but the sheep did not listen to them.

I am the gate.

Whoever enters through me will be saved,

and will come in and go out and find pasture.

A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy;

I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”


CCC 754 “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.”1

CCC 764 “This Kingdom shines out before men in the word, in the works and in the presence of Christ.”2 To welcome Jesus’ word is to welcome “the Kingdom itself.”2 The seed and beginning of the Kingdom are the “little flock” of those whom Jesus came to gather around him, the flock whose shepherd he is.4 They form Jesus’ true family.5 To those whom he thus gathered around him, he taught a new “way of acting” and a prayer of their own.6

CCC 2158 God calls each one by name.7 Everyone’s name is sacred. The name is the icon of the person. It demands respect as a sign of the dignity of the one who bears it.

1 LG 6; cf. Jn 10:1-10; Isa 40:11; Ezek 34:11-31; Jn 10:11; 1 Pet 5:4; Jn 10:11-16.

2 LG 5.

3 LG 5.

4 Lk 12:32; cf. Mt 10:16; 26:31; Jn 10:1-21.

5 Cf. Mt 12:49.

6 Cf. Mt 5-6.

7 Cf. Isa 43:1; Jn 10:3.


One of the oldest paintings of Christ, in the Roman catacombs, represents Christ as carrying the injured, straying sheep gently on his shoulders back to the sheepfold. This is an image of Christ which has always appealed to Christians. We have Christ as our shepherd–he tells us so himself in today’s gospel–and we do not resent being called sheep in this context. There is something innocent about a sheep, and at the same time a lot of foolishness! But with Christ as our shepherd and the “good shepherd” who is sincerely interested in the true welfare of his flock we have reason to rejoice.

The leaders of the Jews, the Pharisees and Sadducees, were false shepherds who tried to prevent the people from following Jesus, but they failed. They then killed the shepherd but in vain. He rose from the dead and his flock increased by the thousands and will keep on increasing until time ends.

We surely are fortunate to belong to the sheepfold of Christ–his Church. We surely are blessed to have the Son of God as our Shepherd, who came among us in order to lead us to heaven. Do we fully appreciate our privileged position? Do we always live up to our heavenly vocation? We know his voice, we know what he asks of us, but do we always listen to that voice, do we always do what he asks of us?

There are many among us today who foolishly think they need no shepherd. They think they know all the facts of life while they are in total ignorance of the most basic fact of all, namely, the very purpose of life. Not that the thought of it does not arise disturbingly before their minds time and time again. But they try to smother that thought and ease their consciences by immersing themselves deeper and deeper in the affairs and the passing pleasures of this temporary life. Alas for them, a day of reckoning lies ahead, a day that is much nearer than they would like to believe. What will be their fate when they meet Christ the Judge, whom they had refused to follow and acknowledge during their days on earth?

This is a misfortune that could happen to any one of us, unless we think often of our purpose and our end in life. We have a few short years, but short though they be, we can earn for ourselves an eternity of happiness during this life. Let the straying sheep boast of their false freedom and of the passing joys they may get in this life–this freedom and these joys are mixed with much sorrow, and will end very soon. We know that if we follow the shepherd of our souls, we are on the way to the true life, the perfect life, the unending life which will have no admixture of sorrow, regret or pain. Where, Christ is, there perfect happiness is, and there with God’s grace we hope and trust to be.

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



Why the Church Needs the Marian Mystery

We must become a longing for God. The Fathers of the Church say that prayer, properly understood, is nothing other than becoming a longing for God. In Mary this petition has been granted: she is, as it were, the open vessel of longing, in which life becomes prayer and prayer becomes life. St. John wonderfully conveys this process by never mentioning Mary’s name in his Gospel. She no longer has any name except “the Mother of Jesus.” It is as if she had handed over her personal dimension in order now to be solely at this disposal, and precisely thereby had become a person… It is , I believe, no coincidence, given our Western, masculine mentality, that we have increasingly separated Christ from his Mother, without grasping that Mary’s motherhood might have some significance for theology and faith. This attitude characterizes our whole approach to the Church… What we need, then, is to abandon this one-sided, Western activistic outlook, lest we degrade the Church to a product of our creation and design. The Church is not a manufactured item; she is, rather, the living seed of God that must be allowed to grow and ripen. This is why the Church needs the Marian mystery; this is why the Church herself is a Marian mystery. There can be fruitfulness in the Church only when she has this character, when she becomes holy soil for the Word. We must retrieve the symbol of the fruitful soil; we must once more become waiting, inwardly recollected people who in the depth of prayer, longing, and faith give the Word room to grow.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI


A Prayer of Thanksgiving

As a mother protects her children,

watching over them day by day,

alert to danger, and ready if necessary

to sacrifice herself for their sake,

so you Lord protect,

your arms constantly encircling us,

your hands delivering us from harm.

For the intensity of your love,

Lord Jesus we thank you.

Loving God, we thank you for mothers,

for all they mean or have meant,

for the love they have shown

and the care they have given.

We thank you Lord for the qualities of mothers-

their patience, their kindness,

concern and understanding.

We thank you Lord for the past they play in our lives,

and we thank you for this day of saying “thank you”

this opportunity to say what we so often mean to say

but so rarely do.

For mothers and motherhood,

for children and families

we bring you this day our grateful praise.


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