Reflection: Fourth Sunday of Easter

Chinese Mass:Every Sunday 2:15 p.m

Our Lady of the Assumption RC Church, Assumption Priory, Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green E2 9PB (map)

Mass is conducted in a mix of Cantonese and Mandarin

After Mass you are welcome to join the community for a tea gathering

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[1st Reading – Acts13:14,43-52; Ps.99; 2nd Reading – Rev.7:9,14-17; Gospel – Jn.10:27-30]

Unlike these last few Sundays during Eastertide, today’s gospel does not speak about Jesus’ resurrection.  Instead, it speaks about the inter-relationship that exists between Jesus, as a  ‘shepherd’ and his ‘sheep’.

Jesus qualifies his sheep and says that the sheep that belong to him listen to his voice.  Furthermore, Jesus says that he knows his own sheep and the sheep follow him.  Even though it is not said explicitly, but one understands that the sheep follow him not only because Jesus knows them, but because they have developed a relationship of trust with him.  They trust him not because they belong to him but because they have seen in him someone who takes care of them.  Thus they listen to his voice, they know that he knows them and he takes care of them and therefore they are not afraid to follow him.  This build up of trust in the relationship with Jesus is confirmed by the fact that Jesus is promising them eternal life.  Eternal life is given to them once they follow him after they have heard his voice.

Eternal life is not something that will only take place in the afterlife, when one dies.  It starts now, here on earth, while we are still alive.  It is in fact happening here and now, in this world, once the sheep follow Jesus because they belong to him, they will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from him.  Jesus’ care for his sheep is so great that nothing will ever harm them.  This does not mean that someone (i.e., the devil) will not try and do his best to tempt and therefore discourage the sheep.  The devil will do so – as indeed he did to Jesus!  But those sheep which belong to Jesus, which listen to his voice and which follow him, they trust Jesus so much that whatever happens to them, they know and feel that Jesus will be with them.  Therefore Jesus will make sure that they will never be lost (because he will be the one to guide them!) and that no one will ever steal them from him (because he will be there always, caring for his sheep!)

While speaking about this relationship, Jesus also speaks about the Father and about the Father’s relationship with the sheep and with Jesus himself.  Jesus says that the Father gave the sheep to him.  Thus before being Jesus’ sheep, the sheep were the property of the Father … And the Father chose to give them to Jesus for the simple reason that Jesus and the Father are one!  If they are one, therefore what belongs to the Father belongs to the Son and vice versa …  This also means that if they are now the property of Jesus because they chose to follow Jesus, they are still and also the property of the Father and the Father, who is greater than anyone will intervene in their life (as he did in Jesus!) and show his strength and might in them.  The Father himself will be guarding them and defending them, with Jesus, so that no one will steal them from him.  Therefore they will be taken care of not only by Jesus, but also by the Father himself.

This caring and these inter-relationships put the sheep in a particular position.  It is not therefore a relationship between the sheep and Jesus and the other way round, or between the sheep and the Father and the other way round… Jesus is speaking about the relationship between all of them together, sheep, Jesus and the Father.  The Father, who is the greatest because he is greater than anyone, will still be sending Jesus to look after the sheep.  Jesus will still be sent by the Father to the sheep and he will still speak in the Father’s name.  The sheep will still be listening to Jesus’ voice, and Jesus will be saying what the Father wants to tell the sheep.

The Father is trying to tell us through Jesus that He is greater than anyone and that He cares for us.  Do we believe Him?!

“Lord, we listen to your voice and we also follow you, but we need to be strengthened in our faith.  Help us Lord to believe that the Father is greater than anyone.  Thank you Lord!”

 

Fr. Jesmond Pawley, OFM Conv.

(Permission to reproduce on this site by Fr. Jesmond, St. Patrick’s RC Church, Waterloo    http://www.stpatrickwaterloo.org.uk/ )

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