Homily Fourth Sunday of Easter Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo· Acts 2:14a, 36-41;
· Ps 23; 1-3a, 3b-4,5,6
· 1Peter 2:20b-25
· John 10:1-10
Christ, Gate and Our Good Shepherd: Listen to His Voice
Fourth Sunday of Easter celebrates Christ the Good Shepherd and Gate to life. It is also a world day of prayer and vocation. It anticipates Mother’s Day celebration, on May 14th, in some nations. However, in the light of today's readings, the metaphorical emphasis is placed on Christ as the Good Shepherd, and the Gate to the sheepfold, who loves, guards our souls, and wipes our tears, the tears of his sheep. What we see in Christ of today’s reading often reflects in the persons of our good mothers, our parents, the human shepherds and mentors who shepherds the vocation of each and every one of us. They care for us. They feed us, they love us, pay our tuition fees, mentors us with the direction of the and inspiration of Christ, the Chief Shepherd and the great I AM, whom we are called to listen to his voice! Listening, of course is much more than hearing! It requires a disposition for learning!
In fact, we mean, a listening and learning Church members and leaders ,with a synodic model, grounded in compassion and respect for peoples of all walks of life, and cognizant of their material and spiritual needs. This is the listening Church, the listening flock, to the voice of the Good Shepherd, that Pope Francis continuously stress during his pontificate.
Flocks and sheep listening to the voice of the master-shepherd has always been important especially in moments of disillusionment and uncertainties, as was the case with the early disciples, after the dead and resurrection of Christ.
It is to this Church that Peter addresses in the 1st and 2nd readings (Acts 2:14a, 36-41; 1Pt 2:20b-25). Peter is preaching to a Church that is experiencing difficulties, such as crises of faith, corruption, and doubt of the future. Members this church, Peter's addressee, are persecuted, for the sake of Christ ,who is no longer with them—physically and humanly speaking. But, with Peter’s reassurance, Christ continuously and spiritually, watches over his church as a Good Shepherd, an imagery very well known to the early Church and Semitic culture.
This Semitic imagery, as powerful as it is, repeatedly finds expression in many other scriptural passages, including Jeremiah chapter 23 and Ezekiel chapter 34. And of course, in today’s Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.” The question remains, in our needs, and confusion do we remember that the Lord is our Good shepherd?In the Gospel, John expands on this Semitic imagery. He sees Jesus not only as the Good Shepherd who feeds, listens, smells, protects the sheep, but also as the Gateway of the Church. For him who ever enters through the gateway, and listen to Christ, will be saved. The Christ of John welcomes us comes. He embraces us as a good mother, father, friend and mentor would embrace their mentee and apprentice. In his embrace we must therefore listen to him, in our vocation journeys, choices and discernments (John 10:10).
This invitation becomes more challenging in a world filled today with competing voices of secularism, ideologies, fake media, relativism, violent, terrorism and wars. What about the voices of materialism, neglect of the poor and the mockeries of family values and vocations to the priesthood and religious life?As challenging as our times might be, and as thick and heavy as our doubts, and disillusions may be, may we not lose sight of what God has done for us in Christ, the everlasting Good Shepherd, and the true Gate who knows each of us, his flock, by name! May we in our various places of work, and life imitate Christ, listen to his voice by welcoming and opening the door and the gates to the poor and the needy! And by bearing witness to the Gospel!
Reflection Questions:1. Do we trust in Christ, Our Good Shepherd, and how do we assist members of our faith community to relate to today’s readings, especially to the Semitic imageries of Christ the Good Shepherd, the great I AM, and the Gateway (Jer 23, Ezekiel 34, Psalm 23, and John 10)?
2. How do we imitate or relate to Christ’s leadership style in our places of leadership and responsibilities?
3. As sheep and flocks of Christ, what prevents us today, as individuals and as a Church, from listening or hearing and practicing the voice of our Chief Shepherd, the Christ?