Thoughts on the Readings for the 4th Sunday of Easter (A) 2017

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/050717.cfm  

I would guess that for most of us the words “sheep” and “shepherds,” evoke idyllic images of meadows, flowing waters and pleasant tranquility.   The reality is, though, that sheep are not the cleanest of animals and they certainly aren’t very intelligent.  And, at the time of Jesus, shepherds were not well paid and shepherding definitely was not an important job.   In fact, shepherds were often looked on with suspicion, and were not accorded a great deal of respect.  Despite this, in the Old Testament, the images of sheep and shepherds were often used to describe God’s relationship with his people.   Jesus too, often used this image to describe his relationship to his disciples.  This is certainly true this weekend as we celebrate the 4th Sunday of Easter.   Each year in our three year cycle of readings, we always read from the 10th chapter of John’s Gospel on this weekend, and we always hear of sheep and shepherds.  

In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus reminds us of four important things.  1.  The sheep “hear the voice of the shepherd.”   2.  The “shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”   3.  The shepherd “walks ahead of them and the sheep follow him.”  4. “A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”  

In our first reading this Sunday, we continue to read from Peter’s speech on the first Pentecost.  In the section we read today, Peter challenges his hearers to “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.”   The last sentence is important.   It reminds us that God’s promise of salvation is universal and timeless.

For our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the First Letter of Peter.  In the section we read today, Peter reminds us that Jesus is our model in any sufferings. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.”

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. In today’s world, do the images of sheep and shepherds still work to help us understand our relationship with God?  
  2. What helps you to hear the voice of the shepherd?
  3. Why do some people better seem to bear “suffering” better than others?
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