Fourth Sunday of Easter
First Reading: Acts of the Apostles 13:14, 43-52
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 100:1-3, 5
Second Reading: Revelation 7:9, 14-17
Gospel: According to St. John 10:27-30
The preaching of Jesus is filled with a number of word plays. In fact, His dexterity in the use of language is one of the hallmarks of both His public and private discourses. When He renames Simon as Peter or Petros, ‘the Rock’ upon which His Church would be built, was He also making a comment about the thickness of Peter’s dome and how, sometimes, he just doesn’t get it? If He was, then it would not have been out of character since Jesus often introduced a double meaning into His words.
This week’s Gospel shows Jesus as the Good Shepherd. His words, “My sheep hear My voice: I know them and they follow Me,” were spoken just prior to an incident where the Jews picked up rocks to stone Him, and therefore prefigured the turning of the crowd against Him during His Passion. The words also look past the Passion to the Resurrection, where Jesus calls out, “Mary!” and only in the calling of her name does Mary Magdalene recognize the Person who appeared to her – she heard His voice, recognized Him, and followed Him.
The theme of the Good Shepherd takes an interesting turn in the second reading, from the Book of Revelation. The image of the Shepherd is still associated with Jesus, but the Shepherd is now also the Lamb: “For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them…” Jesus is the Shepherd as well as the Lamb; He is both the protector of and the sacrifice for those sheep. He is, to use the language of the Church, both Priest and Victim.
Those who recognize the Shepherd when their names are called are members of the “great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” The imagery of Revelation shows them holding palm branches and dressed in white robes, robes that have been made white in the blood of the Lamb. Again, the intermingling of images helps the listener to remember Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Pentecost Sunday, as well as the cleansing waters of baptism.
Good writers are able to use words in ways that bring to life the story being told. Great writers go beyond that to carry the readers to places that broaden and enlighten the mind and add depth to the human experience. The One Who wrote the “Greatest Story Ever Told” eclipses any other author by not only weaving a tale that intertwines all stories from all times and places, but by knowing and calling each and every character by name.