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Fourth Sunday – Year A – Easter
Readings: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; 1 Pet 2:20b-25; Jn 10:1-10.
1/ Reading I: RSV Acts 2:14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words; says, 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 And 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 shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40 And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
2/ Reading II: RSV 1 Peter 2:20 But if when you do right and suffer for it you take it patiently, you have God’s approval. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
3/ Gospel: RSV John 10:1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way that man is a thief and a robber; 2 but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. 9 I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
I. THEME: How can one differentiate between truth and lie?
Living in a world which mixes everything together, it is very difficult for one to differentiate between true and fake gold, truth and lie, real and fake love. However, if a person has wisdom and experience, he can find a way to identify them. He will use fire to test gold, God’s word to test the truth and time to test a real love or a virtue.
Today readings provide us some standards to recognize the truth from all lies; the one who really loves from ones who only use us. In the first reading, Peter and the apostles pointed out for people of Jerusalem to know that they made a big mistake when listened to the wicked condemnation of the Sanhedrin to crucify God’s Most Holy One, Jesus Christ. In the second reading, the author of the First Letter of Peter showed that the true faithful are those who imitate Christ to do good deeds, to patiently suffer and to faithfully persevere till the end without worrying about revenge because they know God shall vindicate them. In the Gospel, Jesus showed his audience that the real shepherd is the one whom goes through him as the door to the sheep. All those who go through other ways to the sheep are thieves and robbers. The good shepherd helps his sheep to fully live; while the hirelings only find ways to destroy the sheep.
1/ Reading I: What must we do now?
1.1/ People of Jerusalem committed sins when they asked Pilate to crucify Christ: One of the main tasks of the apostles is to persuade people to believe that Christ is the Messiah, whom the Law and the Prophets foretold. In today passage from the Acts, Peter stood together with other apostles and proclaimed to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words; says, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.””
1.2/ Two conditions needed to inherit the salvation: There is none that is more painful than this: the Israelites, from one generation to the next, expect the coming of the Messiah; but when he came, they rejected, maltreated and killed him like a robber. When recognized their sins, they felt an excruciating pain in their heart and asked Peter and other apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter gave them two things to do:
(1) Be baptized in Christ’s name: The baptism which Peter mentioned has a twofold benefits, to receive the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit’s gifts. These two things God promises with them from the beginning, and now is achieved in Christ and his works of redemption. This baptism is given to all people from everywhere, not only limited to the Israelites.
(2) Be separated from this evil generation: Looking back at Christ’s life and the wicked way which people maltreated him, we see the wickedness of the devil, the world and the human flesh. We wonder that why didn’t these people recognize the truths which Jesus revealed to them? Why could the apostles, who witnessed Jesus’ wonderful works and his love for them, plainly betrayed, rejected and ran away from him, and let him endure his passion and death alone? Why could the Sanhedrin who called themselves God-fearers and experts of the law, be lying and condemned Jesus, an innocent person to death? Why didn’t such a leader like Pilate have courage to set free Jesus after he knew that the Jews wanted to kill Jesus out of their jealousy?
We aren’t bold to condemn Jesus’ contemporaries because we can’t find a proper answer for the question, “Why do we, who understand God’s immense love for us, continue to betray Him by being slaves for sins?” We can only beat our heart to examine ourselves, try our best to avoid the wicked generation and practice a more virtuous life.
2/ Reading II: “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.”
2.1/ Imitate Christ to faithfully do good and to endure sufferings: The author advised his faithful to imitate Christ to do three important things.
(1) To do good deeds: Christ, during his life on earth, didn’t cause a single damage for people. In the opposite, he went out to always do good deeds for people: healing them for all diseases, expelling devils, revealing God’s truths and preaching the gospel. To the point that he could challenge those who wanted to stone him to death, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these do you stone me?” (Jn 10:32). He did good things not only for his contemporaries but also for people of all generations by establishing the sacraments to keep bestowing graces upon them.
(2) To endure sufferings: Though he caused no damage for anyone; all people caused sufferings for him. For examples, Judas betrayed and sold him for thirty silvers; Peter, the leader of all apostles, denied him three times in his passion; all other apostles ran away from him; the Sanhedrin relied on false testimonies to condemn him to death; the soldiers slapped his face, mocked and spitted on him, they scourged him, put on his head him a crown of throne and nailed him to the cross; the Jews asked Pilate to release Barabbas, a thief, instead of him who saved them. All of human beings continue to sin against him. We can convincingly say that there is none in this world who suffered like him though he commits no sin.
(3) To be faithful to the end: Though he was betrayed, maltreated and killed unjustly, Jesus didn’t react even though he has power to kill all those who caused sufferings for him. The author of the First Letter of Peter described Jesus’ endurance as followed, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly.”
Christ could endure all these injustices because he knew God the Father will vindicate him. The author advised his faithful to imitate Christ because, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.” However, to imitate Christ to do these three things isn’t easy. Whoever can do, it is by God’s grace; and he shall certainly be victorious and govern with Christ.
2.2/ The reason for imitating Christ: There are at least two reasons why we should imitate Christ to faithfully do good deeds and to endure sufferings:
(1) Because we are received good results from Christ’s sacrifices: The author wrote, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” If we are inherited the merits of Christ’s passion and death, we must also sacrifice for others by doing the same, so that they might have some benefits from our sufferings.
(2) After we are dead to our sins, we can live a righteous life: Christ did not only die for our sins, he also bestows full of graces upon us through the sacraments so we can live a holy and righteous life. When we live a righteous life, we shall no longer be a slave for sins; but as a free person who lives according to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. If we pay no attention to our duty to live a more holy and righteous life; we shall easily return to our former life. Therefore, the author reminded his faithful, “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.”
3/ Gospel: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
The passage gives us two signs to recognize a true shepherd:
3.1/ He must enter through the door to the sheepfold: The door is the sign to indicate if a person has a right to enter: those who enter through it are the true shepherds; who enter through other ways are thieves and robbers. The Jews have two ways to safeguard their sheep during the night. For those who live far away from their village, they can find a cave which has only one way to enter to keep their sheep; the shepherd shall lie at the entrance. Whoever wants to take his sheep, he must enter through him. For those who live near to the village, they can bring their sheep to a common place called the sheepfold; this place has a keeper who knows all the shepherds and their sheep. All of them must enter and go out under his supervision.
Jesus proclaimed that he is the door of the sheepfold. Whoever enters through him is the true shepherd; whoever doesn’t, is a thief or a robber. There are two ways to understand Jesus’ claim: First, whoever cares for the sheep in Jesus’ name, is the true shepherd; in one’s own name, he is a thief. Secondly, whoever teaches Jesus’ teaching to the faithful, he is the true shepherd; he who teaches his own or the other’s teaching, he is a false shepherd.
3.2/ He must take a good care of the sheep: The first sign isn’t enough to recognize a good shepherd, since there exists shepherds in Israel who are authorized to care for the sheep; but they didn’t care for the sheep; instead, they only looked for the sheep’s fur and meat. The prophet Ezekiel forewarned people this kind of shepherd (Eze. 34:8).
The caring for sheep in Palestine is difficult and requires hard works because there aren’t many pastures and water. If a shepherd wants his sheep to grow and to be healthy, he must lead his sheep far away to look for green pastures and pure springs. Besides, Palestine topography is treacherous due to many stony mountains and hills; shepherds and their sheep can easily fall to a deep abyss and died if they aren’t careful. Moreover, shepherds must also safeguard their sheep from wolves, thieves and robbers.
Christ declares that he is the Good Shepherd who comes so that his sheep can live and fully live. He shall look for the strayed sheep, bind the injured ones and fatten the skinny sheep. The shepherd who cares for the faithful’s spiritual needs must also imitate Christ to care for them. They must not look for the sheep’s fur and meat; but search to bring back those who forsook their faith for a long time, to heal those who are burdened by heavy weights and to help the faithful to grow in faith and virtues.
Even though the good shepherd finds all possible ways to help his sheep, the sheep’s attitude is also needed for their nourishment and protection. The most important attitude of the sheep is to recognize their shepherd’s voice and not to follow a stranger, because the shepherd can’t protect such a sheep. Next, the sheep also need to follow the shepherd’s commands, not to follow their own wills, because the sheep don’t have ability to care for themselves and to recognize what are necessary for their life.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We must learn Scripture to recognize the truth and to avoid all lies. If we don’t study Scripture, we shall not be able to recognize all lies of the world.
– We should imitate Christ to faithfully do good and to suffer for others so that they might also inherit the salvation as he has done for us.