Roman Catholic Reflections
Fourth Sunday of Easter. Year B – (ANZAC DAY in Australia and New Zealand) - Sunday, April 25, 2021
Readings for Fourth Sunday of Easter. Year B
FIRST READING: Acts 4:8-12
Ps 118:1+8-9, 21-23, 26+21+29. “The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.”
SECOND READING: 1 John 3:1-2
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (John 10:14). Alleluia, alleluia! I am the good shepherd, says the Lord. I know my sheep and mine know me.
GOSPEL: John 10:11-18
Shutterstock licensed image ID:1688640952. An ancient statue of Jesus Christ Good Shepherd with the lost sheep on his shoulders. Biblical tradition, religion, Christianity, God, faith concept. Zwiebackesser
Please listen to the audio recordings of the Mass – (Readings, prayers and homily), for the Fourth Sunday of Easter. Year B - Sunday, April 25, 2021, by clicking this link here: https://soundcloud.com/user-633212303/easter-4b-2021-ep-295 (EPISODE: 295)
**Prologue – Fr Paul
Today marks the 106th Anniversary of the landing of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers at Gallipoli, in 1915, during World War I. This national day of remembrance honours the courage and the self-sacrifice of those who served in all wars, conflicts and peace-keeping operations. We particularly recognise the sacrifice of the fallen. We commend them to God's eternal care... and we also fervently pray that the justice and peace, which they sought to defend and preserve will dwell richly in our land and in our world in the hearts of all.
Today, we remember the sacrifices, the bravery and the loss of those who served, suffered and died in the time of war. The emotion and the significance of these events in no way lessen with the passage of time…
In all wars and military operations, including peacekeeping operations… Australia has, in total lost 102,930 - and that's an increase of 85 human lives lost in the last six years. With 226,060, injured (another 187 added in the last six years), and 34,733 taken as prisoners of war (an addition of three.. which although thankfully low, is bad enough). And surely 100% of those who served and returned have been profoundly affected in ways that one could hardly put into words…. The sheer size of these numbers (let alone the human effects behind it- and countless more lives which were changed forever – loved ones and friends and the community too… suffering their tragic loss and remembering their bravery and dedication - it is really impossible to fully comprehend… Just this last week the government has launched a royal commission to look into the huge issue of returned veterans suicide… another reminder of the untold cost for those who returned alive, after upholding their loyal duty..so profoundly. Our prayers and hearts are with them all.
We hear from the Lord's own lips, "No one has greater love, says the Lord, than those who lay down their lives for their friends, " and today we commemorate the ultimate sacrifice of those who served in times of war… and those who risked life and limb for those they loved…..
As disciples of Jesus…. We are not trying to merely imitate God’s actions, (as commendable as this would be),… nor are we merely trying to do what God, in Jesus, did, (as far as any human being could try to imitate our God made flesh)--- but rather… we are ultimately striving to become more connected to what motivated Our Lord to act as he did. The reason and cause of all his actions and words… which (at its core and centre) is his identity as God – and God’s nature as infinite love… ….To become instruments of God’s love, ………………servants of God’s love… and to become the love of God inside and out…
Here is the critical truth about faith--it is grounded in God's wondrous LOVE for us. We may not feel worthy to be loved, we may even push that love away at times…--but we cannot keep God from loving us. That is God's very nature. God is a shepherd – (a very good one – the best, in fact). God is love.
Today, we remember the truth that God always searches for the one who is lost, or who feels unworthy or unloved and carries them in His arms. Anyone who would follow Jesus ,(the good shepherd) as a disciple or especially in the vocation as a priest or religious….. must be prepared to have a love for God’s precious ones – after the example of the good shepherd himself.
Jesus tells us that He will lay His life down for us. He has already died for us, but every day He is willing to lay down His life for us once more. Salvation is not something in the past, salvation is today.
The second reading, from the First Letter of Saint John, is a wonderful prophecy of what heaven will be like: we shall be like Him and we shall see Him as He is. So much of our life here is spent trying to be like Him, trying to live as He lived, trying to love and He loved. In heaven, we shall be like Him, and we will LOVE like him. That is the goal of all discipleship and vocation … to love like God. If we LOVE as God does.. then all other things flow from it.
Jesus offers healing for us every day - in so many different ways. (true, sometimes we ask for help or healing in certain specific ways, and we don’t always get it. But God always answers our prayers in some way or another.. and even if God does not take all burdens from our shoulders, we can know that at least God is love and God is faithful and God does not will any bad thing for us or for others…. God only wants to cherish us always).
Let us rejoice and be glad today. Let us be still and listen and look for the signs of God’s love in our lives. Let us be aware of how much healing God has already done in our lives” (A)
And may God keep transforming us into instruments of his love and grace… that we might show God’s love and care to others we meet… and slowly but surely be transformed from hired workers into shepherds after the Lord’s own heart… (with love – which never ceases to give of itself… at its very centre)….
Homily – Fr Peter Dillon:
4th Sun Easter B 2021
There are very few of us who would not be familiar with the 23rd Psalm beginning with the words “ The Lord is my shepherd” we find that it brings us great comfort, particularly at funerals, when we feel most in need of the protecting and comforting presence of God. Even though we have very little experience of shepherds in the modern world, we cannot forget the security that comes each time we the consoling words of the Psalm.
The Gospel of Luke tells us of the lost sheep and the shepherd who leaves the 99 to seek out and save the lost one.
Where I grew up, graziers had an expression. They were going into town to 'buy a few sheep'. A few sheep always meant a few hundred or a few thousand sheep. I grew up with the familiar sight of the unknown, abandoned, dead, fly-blown sheep rotting in dry paddocks. A completely different context from the one in which Jesus introduces the concept of the shepherd who knows his sheep, who lays down his life for his sheep, whose sheep recognise his voice.
The shepherd of Jesus's time cared for a few dozen sheep, lived with them, talked to them, sang to them, played the pipes to them, and protected them personally from the wolf.
We think of the utter foolishness of that rescue mission. We have a God of unthinking passion. Not dictated to by common sense. Why take the risk of losing even more sheep? Surely losing one is bearable compared to the 99 others.
Jesus speaks of himself as the door to the sheepfold, who physically lay across the entrance to the sheep pen to protect the sheep, who lay down his life for his sheep. No hireling - the shepherd who will never abandon us. Today’s gospel adds a further intimate touch. The shepherd who knows the sheep by name. A personal relationship with the Shepherd. Who knows us anymore? We are the numbers on our credit cards and cheque books. In the concentration camps, people had numbers tattooed on their arms. Prisoners were no longer people but numbers in a series. It is easier to erase numbers than to kill people. An old saying: ‘Don’t count the sheep out loud’. As soon as you make the sheep an abstraction and a number on your computer, they are no longer unique, important, they will not thrive.
There is a story of an old farmer’s problem: The neighbour's dogs were killing his sheep, so he thought he had three options - He could sue his neighbour for damages but that might be too costly and bad for future relations. He could build a stronger and higher fence, but that too would be costly and may not be effective. The solution he eventually decided on was to give the neighbour’s children two lambs as pets. Suddenly the sheep were just not an impersonal herd, but warm fuzzy animals with individual pet names. The neighbours soon had their dogs under control.
A truer story is that of Joseph Abdiah, who founded the Haifa Symphony Orchestra in Israel. Some years ago in an Arab village, he was surrounded by an angry crowd who began to shout, “We are going to kill you”.
“Why”? he asks.
“Because we have orders. You are a Jew and we are Arabs. Our leaders have told us to kill any Jews we meet”.
“Well, how are you going to kill me?”
“We’ll throw you down that well over there”. He slowly walked towards the well with great dignity. Suddenly their mood began to change. They did not see a faceless enemy, but an old man walking to his death. They hesitated, had a discussion. Announced, ‘We hereby declare you to be a Muslim”, and they changed his name! He became a person, not an enemy. They had feelings and emotions, not just an ideology.
I am the good shepherd... I know my sheep and mine know me... And there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and these I have to lead as well. They too will listen to my voice...
We still portray the 'Good Shepherd' as a man carrying a lamb on his shoulders
To really have any meaning for us, we have to radically re-interpret this Good Shepherd image.
The point of knowing is more than merely recognising the external features. It is a whole sense of belonging - being part of. Those who belong to Christ recognise his voice because they live the same life. It is listening to the voice of the one who is calling, allowing his voice to reach us and touch our hearts, basic to the ability to recognise is opening of our hearts to listen.
Called to belong to this flock are all persons who have begun an adventure with Jesus, calls for enormous mutual trust and love. It is the kind of love that requires one to forego material distractions and to die to selfish ambitions so that the loved one can live. No one is ever called to stand alone but called to be part of one flock, one community.
We are really called to make a journey of love and sacrifice, more and more able to recognise the voice of our Lord as he speaks, as he moves among those he loves. We are called to ignore the voices that call us to success at any cost, and ambition that that excludes the needs of others. He is the gathering force among us, he is here as we gather, in our homes as we learn to love, in our work as we learn to serve.
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