Scripture: Lectionary 50:   Acts 2:14,36-41. Psalm 23:1-3,3-4.5.6. I Peter
2:20-25, John 10:1-10

Sunday's Readings

Shepherding and sheep stream through our readings on this Good Shepherd
Sunday, the fourth Sunday after Easter. The image of this pastoral theme
are present in each of the readings sometimes emphasizing the sheep, then
the shepherd and those who follow Jesus as shepherds of the flock of
believers in Jesus the Messiah and Savior. Of course, Peter is important in
this pastoral image as a good shepherd, but John gives us the living words
of Jesus who calls himself the Good Shepherd not in a parable but in a
"paroimia" which means an example, model, or a proverb. John does not make
use of parables but rather prefers examples, symbols, and proverbs. This is
excellent for seeing Jesus then as the superb example of a strong and good
Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.

Peter, in the first reading, is the one who starts "speeches" or
sermonizing in the Acts of the Apostles. We have them also through the long
sermon or history of salvation discourse of Stephen;  Paul will follow as
the Acts of the Apostles moves on throughout the liturgies of Easter. Peter
speaks as a shepherd who leads the great numbers who are coming into the
nascent church of Jerusalem on Pentecost Sunday.  Belief in Jesus as
Messiah and Savior is always a feature of these speeches. There is a Lucan
format to almost everyone of the twenty or more locutions found in Acts:
first, the Sufferings, Death, and Resurrection are recalled for the
listeners. Secondly, there is a charge or command to change one's mind and
heart, that is, a metanoia or reform of one's life. Thirdly, the Holy
Spirit is called upon so that the promises of God made through the
Scriptures are recalled by those listening and finally baptism in the Name
of Jesus.

Psalm twenty-three is the favorite of most people and every line is filled
with pastoral or shepherd imagery both for the Lord and the followers, the
sheep of the Lord.  We acknowledge God as a shepherd through this psalm and
it is so well known that it becomes a prayer in our lives at funerals, but
also in times of joy.

I Peter is more of a homily and it too has shepherd imagery within it.  We
read in today's passage: "At one time you were straying like sheep, but now
you have returned to the shepherd, the guardian of your souls." (I Peter

John gives us the living words of the Word of God, Jesus. Not only is he
the way, the truth, and the life, he is also the Good or perfect shepherd
and the sheepgate--meaning that he lays down his life at the narrow passage
that the sheep must go through. Neither a marauder can cross over without
being confronted by the protecting shepherd who is stretched across the
"gateway."  The sheep cannot pass outside the gate without the Shepherd
allowing them to do so and then leading them to the green pastures.  These
consoling lines from John's Gospel are important for us whenever we are in
need of protection from anxiety, opposition, or when we feel like straying
away from the fold. Perhaps, we may be led to interpret this by reading the
great poem of Francis Thompson, "The Hound of Heaven." Amen Alleluiah!