Tag Archives: shepherd

4th Sunday of Easter, cycle B

Let us pray:

God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Though we may struggle in our lives with fear or worry,

we are reminded that you have not left us alone.

For we follow in faith the call of the shepherd

whom you have sent for our hope and our strength.

Attune our minds to the sound of the shepherd’s voice.

Lead our steps in the path shown to us by the shepherd,

that we may know the strength of your outstretched arm

and enjoy the light of your presence forever.  AMEN

 

1st  Reading – The Acts of the Apostles  4: 8-12

Acts show us just how radically Jesus’ followers have been transformed by His risen presence.  Before, fear ruled their behavior; now they are courageous. They boldly proclaim Christ crucified and risen; in that process they too enter into the cycle of dying and rising.  Only the power of the risen Christ and his Spirit could bring about such a profound change in their lives. (Birmingham, W& W Workbook, 376)

The word for cornerstone in Greek could be more correctly translated as the head of a corner or the capstone or keystone. When building arches, Romans first constructed the two sides of the arch; the last stone to be set in place was the capstone which joined the sides assuring stability and endurance. This capstone was a powerful symbol for Christ for the early Christians. (Celebration, May 2003)

The name of a person is more than just an artificial ‘tag’ to tell one person from another. A name represents the fullness of a person. If we do something in someone’s name, we do it as that person would do it. As a Christian we are to act as Christ, to act in his name. To live this way is to find salvation (fullness of health). Salvation in the name of Jesus is not a ‘magic thing.’ It is a way of life. It is a way of love.

2nd  Reading – 1 John 3: 1-2

We are children of God.  By nature we are creatures of God, but it is by grace that we are children of God.  It is like comparing paternity and fatherhood (Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, p. 73-74).  It is one thing to be created, and something entirely endearing and intimate to family.  We are called into this kind of relationship to God.  How do we answer?  How does God reveal Godself to you?  When you sense this, do you feel more like a child of God?  Take some prayerful time to sit with these words and mull the questions.

The Gospel– John 10: 11-18

Shepherds:

Imagine the scene.  It is first-century Palestine.  Each day the shepherd would take his flock out into the desert for the day’s grazing only to return to the sheepfold, a common enclosure with a low stone wall and gated entrance.  At day’s end the shepherds would bring their sheep to the fold to keep them safe from the dangers of the night: wolves and thieves.  Each night a shepherd was designated to lie down in front of the sheepgate so no one could enter without having to pass him first.  He was the protector of the flock – with his very life if need be. Each morning all the shepherds would return to this enclosure.  Each shepherd would whistle or call out the names of their sheep.  The sheep would know the sound of their own shepherd – they would not respond to anyone else.  Their shepherd would then lead them out to safely graze in the pasture; the sheep always followed their shepherd,

Jesus is the model Good Shepherd.  He cares for his sheep; they know his voice and respond to his voice.  There is ownership.  Jesus knows his sheep; he knows them by name.  He is in loving relationship with them, willing to lay down his life for their good.  We are to know Jesus’ voice and trust him unto death.

The early church adopted this image of shepherd for their leaders also. Like Christ, the leaders were to nourish and safeguard the flock.  The word pastor was derived from this image.  (Birmingham, W&W Wkbk Yr B, 378- 379)

Let us reflect on this poem Messenger, by Mary Oliver:

My work is loving the world.

Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird — equal seekers of sweetness.

Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.

Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?

Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?

Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.

The phoebe, the delphinium. The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.

Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart

and these body-clothes, a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth

and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam, telling them all,

over and over, how it is that we live forever.

Advertisements

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle B

1st Reading: Jeremiah 23: 1-6

How does God punish evil?  By focusing more on the good!  Instead of striking down the evil doers, God promises that he will gather ALL of his flock and they shall multiply.  None shall be missing!

And who is the righteous shoot of David but Jesus Christ.  This type of writing in the Bible is considered typology.  “typology is seen as a method by which Old Testament events are seen as types or figures of the work of Christ; more than that, it reflects a theological understanding of salvation as enacted and revealed in history,”  (Medieval Liturgy, Mayeski, 63).  Events are fulfilled in Christ.  Right now, Christ continues to fulfill these things in the Church.  Where do you see this?  How do we live in security and justice today?

Jeremiah speaks out against the kings of Israel who have traditionally been seen as shepherds to God’s people. Their power was to protect and guide their people, not to destroy and use them. Needless to say, Jeremiah was not popular among these corrupt kings. He suffered greatly (and not silently either!)  Jeremiah spoke about the sheep being scattered across the land – the people were exiled.  Israel sinned and was unfaithful to the covenant.  (Birmingham, W&W, 575)  What scatters and drives us away from God?

2nd Reading: Ephesians 2: 13-18

Peace is a many-splendored word! The Hebrew word, shalom, has a rich meaning of fullness of goodness, completeness, perfection. Peace is not about mere prosperity – an essential component of peace is righteousness. Where there is no righteousness, there is no genuine peace. Jesus brings us this kind of peace. (Dictionary of the Bible, John McKenzie, S.J., 651)

“that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two”…what do you think that means?  Paul indirectly refers to Trinity, that Jesus the Son and the Father are united and later on, that “we both have access in one Spirit to the Father”.  Who is we?  We are the Gentiles and the Jews, together equal and both offered this peace that only Jesus can provide.  We are invited to have a relationship like that of Trinity.  God wants to be one with all of us.  That is true peace.

Also consider Paul’s language of who is near and far.  Think of those who are near and far from you, especially this summer when there is so much travel.  It is good to go away but there is always an ache to be together again!  How are you near and far from God?

The Gospel: Mark 6:30-34

This gospel is very carefully structured. We need to pay close attention to the order that Mark has given us. At the beginning of this 6th chapter, Jesus goes home to Nazareth but is rejected by his own people (the gospel of 2 Sundays ago). Then, last Sunday we see Jesus (not deterred at all by the rejection) sending out his apostles in twos to preach and to heal. This week we jump over Mark’s story of John the Baptist’s death to the return of the apostles and Jesus’ compassion toward them – and then toward the crowd of hungry people in “a deserted place”. What do you make of this story and the order?  We all need to go off to a deserted place to rest at times.  What deserted places have you found helpful?

Picture Jesus listening to the apostles.  It is almost like when Dad comes home from work and everyone fights to be first to tell him about their day.  He listens to them with such compassion…he knows how hard they are trying and wants them to have rest.  But the crowd is ever present and needy.  We might be irritated by this!  But, “their need calls forth from him what he does best – generously subordinate his needs so he can minister to the needs of others…There will always be a faithful Shepherd who will not mislead, who will not abandon the truth, who will never desert the flock,” (Workbook for Lectors, 211).  How does this compare with the first reading?

Shepherding in the church, which today embraces many people in diverse ministries, calls for a Christ-like openness and responsiveness.  How we do things is as important as what we do.  That is the asceticism of Christianity.  (Footprints on the Mountain, Faley, 491).  What do you think?

The Hebrew word for pity described in the text is ‘womb’.  Jesus is drawn to help the crowd because his heart burns for them like a mother to a baby within her.    When people are hurting and hungry, disciples of Christ are to extend the compassion of God and one’s very life to them – balanced, of course, with appropriate doses of much needed solitude, contemplation, and prayer (W&W, Birmingham, 578).  How do you achieve this balance?

In The Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis, he says that the shepherd (or priest) takes on the smell of the sheep.  But he also says that ALL evangelizers must take this on.  “An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others.  Evangelizers thus take on the ‘smell of the sheep’ and the sheep are willing to hear their voice, “ (p. 8).  We are all called.

4th Sunday of Easter, cycle B

1st  Reading – The Acts of the Apostles  4: 8-12

Acts show us just how radically Jesus’ followers have been transformed by His risen presence.  Before, fear ruled their behavior; now they are courageous. They boldly proclaim Christ crucified and risen; in that process they too enter into the cycle of dying and rising.  Only the power of the risen Christ and his Spirit could bring about such a profound change in their lives. (Birmingham, W& W Workbook, 376)

The word for cornerstone in Greek could be more correctly translated as the head of a corner or the capstone or keystone. When building arches, Romans first constructed the two sides of the arch; the last stone to be set in place was the capstone which joined the sides assuring stability and endurance. This capstone was a powerful symbol for Christ for the early Christians. (Celebration, May 2003)

The name of a person is more than just an artificial ‘tag’ to tell one person from another. A name represents the fullness of a person. If we do something in someone’s name, we do it as that person would do it. As a Christian we are to act as Christ, to act in his name. To live this way is to find salvation (fullness of health). Salvation in the name of Jesus is not a ‘magic thing.’ It is a way of life. It is a way of love.

2nd  Reading – 1 John 3: 1-2

We are children of God.  By nature we are a creatures of God, but it is by grace that we are children of God.  It is like comparing paternity and fatherhood (Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, p. 73-74).  It is one thing to be created, and something entirely endearing and intimate to family.  We are called into this kind of relationship to God.  How do we answer?  How does God reveal Godself to you?  When you sense this, do you feel more like a child of God?  Take some prayful time to sit with these words and mull the questions.

The Gospel– John 10: 11-18

Imagine the scene.  It is first-century Palestine.  Each day the shepherd would take his flock out into the desert for the day’s grazing only to return to the sheepfold, a common enclosure with a low stone wall and gated entrance.  At day’s end the shepherds would bring their sheep to the fold to keep them safe from the dangers of the night: wolves and thieves.  Each night a shepherd was designated to lie down in front of the sheepgate so no one could enter without having to pass him first.  He was the protector of the flock – with his very life if need be. Each morning all the shepherds would return to this enclosure.  Each shepherd would whistle or call out the names of their sheep.  The sheep would know the sound of their own shepherd – they would not respond to anyone else.  Their shepherd would then lead them out to safely graze in the pasture; the sheep always followed their shepherd,

Jesus is the model Good Shepherd.  He cares for his sheep; they know his voice and respond to his voice.  There is ownership.  Jesus knows his sheep; he knows them by name.  He is in loving relationship with them, willing to lay down his life for their good.  We are to know Jesus’ voice and trust him unto death.

The early church adopted this image of shepherd for their leaders also. Like Christ, the leaders were to nourish and safeguard the flock.  The word pastor was derived from this image.  (Birmingham, W&W Wkbk Yr B, 378- 379)

 

4th Sunday of Easter, cycle A

sheepgate

1st Reading:  The Acts of the Apostles: 2: 14a, 36-41

Peter’s listeners “were deeply shaken” – literally translated:

“cut, or pierced to the heart.” This is what repentance or conversion is all about. Peter’s message was urgent.  Repentance was not understood just as the turning away from a laundry list of sins.  For Peter’s crowd it meant a radical reassessment of who Jesus was really was-what his significance was  (W&W, Birmingham, p. 300).  Who is Jesus to you?  Right now?

Ronald Rolheiser in his book The Holy Longing says that when we love people and “hold him or her in union and forgiveness’ we are holding them to the Body of Christ as we live as part of that ‘body.’ As Jesus loved and forgave, so we by our baptism are empowered to do likewise. “The incredible graciousness. power, and mercy that came into our world in Jesus is still . . . in our world in us, the Body of Christ. What Jesus did we too can do; in fact, that is precisely what we are asked to do.” (p. 89-90)

2nd Reading: I Peter 20 – 25

Remember that Jesus’ wounds became his identification marks after resurrection. As ‘wounded healers’, we can let the Spirit of Jesus help us to bring life out of the good and the bad times of our lives. This letter is written to a people –many of whom were slaves — who were being persecuted for their faith under the Roman Emperor Domitian at the end of the first century. Their endurance in the face of suffering helped the church to survive even to this day. May we trust in this same Spirit when we face difficulties.  (Celebration, April 2005). How do you think we are ‘healed’ by the wounds of Christ?

The Hebrew Scripture’s background for this reading is probably Isaiah 53: 4 – 12 – a Suffering Servant song.  “By his wounds we are healed . . .” — Jesus and we are bound together by the chafing rope of pain. There is something about suffering that longs to be shared. But with Jesus suffering can become a blessing. What if in Jesus we find a way to trust in that love despite whatever happens?  What if we actually believe that in Jesus we are guaranteed a happy-ending? Love can become the oil for the wounds of suffering, and suffering can become the oil for the fire of love. Let us rely on our Risen Lord, our Good Shepherd. (Celebration, April 2005)

“Happy are they who have reached the end of the road we seek to tread, who are astonished to discover the by no means self-evident truth that grace is costly just because it is the grace of God in Jesus Christ.  Happy are the simple followers of Jesus Christ who have been overcome by his grace, and are able to sing the praises of the all-sufficient grace of Christ with humbleness of heart.  Happy are they who, knowing that grace, can live in the world without being of it, who, by following Jesus Christ, are so assured of their heavenly citizenship that they are truly free to live their lives in the world.  Happy are they who know that discipleship simply means the life which springs from grace, and that grace simply means discipleship.  For them the word grace has proved a fount of mercy,”  (Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 60).

The Gospel: John 10: 1-10

Three important Hebrew Scripture readings serve as background for this passage:

Ezekiel 34+: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel . . . who have been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep? . . . I am coming against these shepherds . . . I will save my sheep . . . I myself will look after and tend my sheep . . . The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal [but the sleek and strong I will destroy], shepherding them rightly.

Jeremiah 23+:  “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter . . . I myself will gather the remnant of my flock . . . and bring them back to their meadow . . . so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none will be missing, says the Lord.

Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd” . . .

Some ideas and facts concerning shepherds:

In Palestine sheep were kept mostly for their wool – not for their meat only.  The sheep were often with the shepherd for many years; they were called by descriptive ‘pet’ names. A shepherd had to be a vigilant and fearless guide for his sheep. (Wm. Barclay, The Gospel of John, Vol.II, p.56)

In this land of winding paths and rock cliffs with thin pastures surrounded by desert and wild animals, an alert and wise shepherd was indispensable to the survival of the sheep. At the end of the day, the shepherd would hold out his rod, close to the ground, having each sheep pass under it as the shepherd would examine it to see if it needed any care. Wounded ones would be ‘cleaned’ and anointed with oil; thirsty ones would be given water.  When all had been cared for, the shepherd would lie down and sleep across the entrance to the sheepfold. He was the safe ‘gate’ by which the sheep could come and go. In this way, the shepherd became the source of life and goodness [salvation].  The gate did not ‘confine’ the sheep, but provided a “spaciousness of security, peace, and protection.”

In the morning when it was time to take the sheep to pasture, the shepherds would call to their sheep by a special sound or whistle, laugh or strange type of noise or song. Each sheep recognized the voice of their own shepherd. They followed that voice for it meant food, protection, warmth, healing and safety.  This sleepless, far-sighted, weather-beaten, armed shepherd was the source of life and protection, strength and guidance for the sheep.  (Celebration, April 1999 & 2005, as well as John Pilch, http://liturgy.slu.edu/4EasterA041308/theword_cultural.html).

Sheep are naturally very vulnerable animals. If one gets lost, it will fall to the ground and ‘bleat’ loudly until the shepherd finds it. We can learn a lot from sheep!(The Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle A, John Pilch, p.77)

The image of being sheep can make us a bit uncomfortable – it can imply we are just part of a ‘flock’ – sort of stupid and dependent.  It seems to imply that we need to be ‘blindly’ obedient. But remember that obedience first means to listen. When we listen to our Shepherd Jesus, we find insight, truth, vision, understanding. He accompanies us through dark valleys and shows where to find life and real safety. (Living Liturgy, Year A, 2002, p.131)

William Barclay tells us of an interesting Jewish legend that was used to explain why God chose Moses to be leader of his people. “When Moses was feeding the sheep of his father-in-law in the wilderness, a young sheep ran away. Moses followed it until it reached a ravine, where it found a well to drink from. When Moses got up to it, he said: ‘I did not know that you ran away because you were thirsty. Now you must be weary.’ He took the sheep on his shoulders and carried it back.  Then God said: “Because you have shown pity in leading back one of a flock belonging to a man, you shall lead my flock Israel.’” It is good to recall that the word pastor comes from a Latin word for shepherd.  (Wm. Barclay, The Gospel of John, Vol. II, p.54-55)

In today’s world we encounter many gates. There are gated communities, gates of entry into theaters and sporting events, toll gates. Each gate represents both a dividing line and a means of entry. What does Jesus divide? What does Jesus open up?

In John’s gospel, there is a series of solemn statements that identifies aspects of Jesus’ identity. These are called the “I am” statements, such as “I am . . . the bread of life (6:48); the Good Shepherd (10:11, 14), the way, the truth, and the life (14:6), the light of the world (8:12; 9:5), the resurrection and the life (11:25). In this week’s gospel, Jesus asserts, “I am the gate” (10:7, 9). This gate opens up to abundant life . . .

Pray about which image seems most meaningful to you.

(“Working with the Word” http://liturgy.slu.edu/4EasterA041308/theword_working.html)

Going through the gate instead of hopping the fence…reminds us that there is no easy way out of our difficult times.  We can’t skip steps.  We have to go THROUGH, and a pasture will await us there.  From Riding the Dragon (R. Wicks, p. 150, quoting The Alchemistby P. Coelho), “Once you get into the desert, there’s no going back,” said the camel driver.  “And when you can’t go back, you have to worry only about moving forward.  The rest is up to Allah, including the danger.”