4TH SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR A ON MAY 3, 2020 (R. 1: Acts 2: 14a, 36- 41; Psalm 23: 1- 6; R. 2: 1 Peter 2: 20b- 25; Gospel: John 10: 1- 10)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
I AM THE GATE FOR THE SHEEP!
A priest was giving a lesson on Psalm 23 (today’s Responsorial Psalm) to a group of children. He noticed that little Joe would not repeat after him, the verse, “Surely, goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.” “What’s wrong, Joe?” the priest asked. Joe replied, “Well, I’m not worried about Goodness, and Mercy, but I’m not sure I would like Shirley following me around all the time. She is mean, and I don’t like her.”
Today is the fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A. In every liturgical year (A, B, and C), this Sunday is also called Good Shepherd Sunday. It is called so because, in each year, the Gospel for this Sunday is taken from a portion of John 10, which presents Jesus as the Good Shepherd; also, the Responsorial Psalm comes from Psalm 23 “The Lord is my shepherd…” Another name for this Sunday is vocations Sunday. It is the world day of prayer for vocations to the priesthood, the diaconate, and the consecrated life. A day we pray that God may call holy men and women to shepherd us as priests, deacons, and religious. It is a response to the words of Jesus in Matthew 9:37 “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (cf. Luke 10:2). Vocations Sunday was instituted by Pope Paul VI in 1963. Its first celebration was on April 11, 1964.
In Year A, the portion of John 10 that we read is from verse 1 to verse 10. Here, Jesus presents himself as the gate for the sheep. The argument began in Chapter 9 of John’s Gospel. After Jesus gave sight to the man who was blind from birth, the Pharisees felt threatened, and they began to do everything within their reach to make it seem like a false miracle. They quizzed the man who was born blind, they questioned his parents, and both parents and son bore witness to the truth of the miracle. The Pharisees went further to make the man see Jesus as a sinner, but the man said, “He is a prophet…Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know [is that] I was blind, but now I see!” Because he defended Jesus, they expelled him from the Synagogue and closed the door against him.
The Pharisees thought that by so doing, they had cut him off from every communication with God, but Jesus showed the crowd that though the door of the Synagogue was shut, another door; the real door has opened: “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture” (John 10: 9). In verse 28, Jesus will clarify that the pasture he gives his sheep is eternal life. They closed the door of the Synagogue against the man, and Jesus opened the door of eternal life to him. When one door closes, another one opens, but sometimes, we focus so much on the closed door that we fail to realize the better door that has been opened. When human beings reject you for doing the right thing, remember that man’s rejection is God’s protection. When the devil comes and says to you, “This is your end!” Jesus comes and adds the letter “b” to the beginning of the word “end,” changes it to “bend” such that the sentence becomes “This is your bend, continue your journey!” When the evil one adds a period/full stop (.) in the middle of your sentence, Jesus adds a comma (,) under the period/full-stop (.), changes it to a semi-colon (;) and then allows you to continue your sentence. One of the famous cartoons about the current pandemic presents the devil as bragging about the fact that he has used the coronavirus to close all church buildings. Jesus responds by saying that he has used the same coronavirus to open a Church in every home.
Jesus presents himself as different from other shepherds who are like thieves and robbers. Thieves and robbers leave people less and worse than they find them, but Jesus, the Good Shepherd, adds value to anyone who comes in contact with him like the blind man in Chapter 9. Jesus also called his apostles to be Good Shepherds, and he challenged them to recruit more shepherds.
As we pray for vocations today, we continue to remember this world that has been thrown into darkness by a virus, and we find our confidence in the words of Psalm 23, saying, “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want…Even though I walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil…Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord, forever and ever.” Amen.