Fourth Sunday of Easter (B)

I was recently reading about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson. Most of these early American leaders were religious people, indeed they put “In God We Trust,” on our bills, however at the same time most of them embraced a theology that said God was very distant from the individual. In other words: God created mankind and is available for major emergencies, but He doesn’t get involved with an individual person’s problems or even his or her life[1].

And you know it is very easy for us to fall in the same way of thinking, especially when we consider some of our Easter formulas. For example, we say, correctly, “Jesus died on the cross to save mankind from sin.” Or, “He saved us from the power of the devil.” True again. But if we stop there, we could easily become people worshiping a distant but uninvolved God. Jesus does more than just care for mankind in general. He cares for us as individuals. No one is insignificant to Him. There is nothing about any of our lives, no situation, no event, no concern, no fear, no joy that the Lord does not want to embrace. If we give it to Him, He makes our needs His needs. He loves every part of each one of our lives.

And to remember this very well, the liturgy presents this fourth Sunday of Easter the Gospel of the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd cares for each one of His Sheep. He lays down His life for His sheep; I mean Jesus didn’t just die for mankind in general. No. He died for you and for me. He knows His sheep: He knows you and He knows me, in fact, He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows everything that has affected our lives from the days when we were in our mothers’ wombs.

And He saves us from our sins. Each of us. When I come upon that expression, “He saves us from our sins,” I’m tempted to limit this to something like “I can go to heaven because of the Blood of Jesus.” And that is true. But there is more, so much more: What would we be like without Jesus?

Ask yourselves this question this morning, and be honest. At least I can imagine the things that I would be doing. I consider the sins I commit now and am embarrassed to realize that if this is how I behave when I have Jesus’ grace, how would I behave if I didn’t treasure His grace? It is scary! Left to our own devices, left to focusing on ourselves, life becomes frightening.

Add to all this the effects of our sins on us. Well, Christ the Good Shepherd saves us from these too…

Somewhere in the gospel our Lord told the parable of the merchant who found the pearl of great price. Everything was sold to purchase that pearl. Well, indeed we have found the pearl of great price. Or perhaps, to put it better, the Pearl has found us. And now we, like the merchant, are willing to do whatever we can to hold onto that Pearl. Are we really determined to buy the pearl and take care of? Perhaps this is the fundamental question of every Christian.

So, what is the lesson that we take home today? Something very simple and very useful for spiritual life: Jesus cares about each of us. He calls us by name and loves us. If the Good Shepherd allows pain, suffering, the contradiction in our life ... Is it because he wants us we seem to him? Does he want us to be purified?

This Sunday, the Sunday of the Good Shepherd, we should be happy because the Church, like Israel before it, has its promised Shepherd who leads it through dark valleys until it enters “green pastures.” We may be like sheep feeding with eyes set on the small plot of life before us, our minds hardly aware a world redeemed by Jesus Christ. But the Good Shepherd is never far away. Though we do not see him, he leads us — the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls ■

[1] Sunday 29th April, 2012, 4th Sunday of Easter. W. Acts 4:8-12. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone—Ps 117(118):1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28-29. 1 John 3:1-2. John 10:11-18.

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris