Easter 4 C
April 9, 2016 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
In the Gospel for the 3rd Sunday, the Beloved Disciple is a faithful witness whose love gives insight about Jesus; and Peter, the failed sinner, because of his love is entrusted with pastoral care. Over the last millennium the Petrine ministry has been defined primarily in terms of Mt. 16:16-19, with its language of stability (rock), defensiveness (gates of hell shall not prevail) and exercise of power (keys, bind and loose). As a new millenium unfolds, this Gospel could help to envision a “Johannine” Petrine ministry. A forgiven sinner, a leader in a community of friends, is chosen for the quality of love and given as his primary mission the care of the vulnerable lambs and sheep in a world so harsh that fidelity to this mission may lead to martyrdom. (John R. Donahue, S.J in America magazine).
The Fourth Sunday of Easter is known as Good Shepherd Sunday.
I was powerfully struck by the coincidence between Fr. Donahue’s words and the role and words of the Holy Father Pope John Paul II on his visit to Athens, Greece on May 5, 2001. The Holy Father said, “For the occasions past and present, when sons and daughters of the Catholic Church have sinned by action and omission against their Orthodox brothers and sisters, May the Lord grant us the forgiveness we beg of him.” At the end of the visit the Holy Father asked Orthodox Archbishop Christodoulos if they could pray the Our Father together. The Archbishop started the Our Father in Greek and the Pope and the cardinals accompanying him joined in.
Is this not the pope exercising the “Johannine” Petrine ministry? The inclusive language of the Pope should also be noticed. He clearly was moving into a region heavily affected by a culture of death and intervening for the Culture of Life. It would seem to me that Francis too is exercising the “Johannine” Petrine ministry.
Heart of a Father the Heart of a Mother, the Heart of a Shepherd.
This is the Sunday when some of Jesus words about being the Good Shepherd are heard. Today’s emphasis is on hearing Jesus voice, being known by him and following him. He gives us eternal life. We shall never perish. Because the Father is greater than all, no one can take us out of the Father’s hand or Jesus hand. As Jesus tells us, he and the Father are one.
Paul and Barnabas because of their loyalty to hearing the voice of Jesus, suffer jealousy and being contradicted with violent abuse. They suffer persecution. They are expelled. But others were delighted with what they heard from Paul and Barnabas. As Jesus told the disciples to do, they shook ‘the dust from their feet’ in protest against their rejecters. They move on and are filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.
This was the way carrying their cross became a part of the lives of Paul and Barnabas. Jealousy and abuse, persecution, even being expelled and exile may be part of our following of Jesus.
And yet they had the promise that “the one who sits on the throne will shelter them. They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them. For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away ever tear from their eyes.”
Paul and Barnabas knew the fulfillment of these promises in their life and surely hoped for the promise of ever lasting life.
The promise is ours too that hearing the voice of Jesus in this life and following him, will make our present life (in this world) different. The emphasis on Jesus as the Good shepherd brings out the tenderness of God. The emphasis on God the father is on his greatness. He is powerful and tender.
The founder of the order, the Priests of the Sacred Heart, said: “The Heart of Jesus is overflowing with compassion for all those who suffer; those beset by troubles, difficulties, and hardships; for the hungry, the toilers, the destitute, and the sick and infirm. His is the Heart of a Father the Heart of a Mother, the Heart of a Shepherd.”