FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, CYCLE B

Open with a prayer: God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, though your people walk in the valley of darkness, no evil should they fear; for they follow in faith the call of the shepherd whom you have sent for their hope and strength. Attune our minds to the sound of his voice, lead our steps in the path he has shown, that we may know the strength of his outstretched arm and enjoy the light of your presence forever. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.

Sharing of Life: What are you most and least grateful for this week?

Facilitator reads focus statement: The Gospel presents Jesus as the model shepherd in his spirit of dedication and willingness to surrender his life for his sheep. The letter of John speaks of the graced outcome of the shepherd's death: our becoming children of God. This Jesus, moreover, is the only way to the Father as Peter tells his listeners in Acts. In him alone is salvation, which is now extended to all humanity.

Now read the readings pausing briefly after each one

FIRST READING: Acts 4:8-12

Today's first reading is Peter's response to the leaders who were disturbed by his healing of the crippled man at the gate of the Temple. Peter tells the leaders that the crippled man was healed through the power of the risen Christ working through him. Then Peter states that all salvation comes through Jesus. The image of the rejected cornerstone was a popular proverb. Although it first appears in Psalm 118 in celebration of Israel's triumph in battle, early Christianity adopted it as a metaphor for the crucifixion. Jesus, rejected by his own people, is revealed as the savior of the world.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM 118

This is a thanksgiving psalm and, in the context of today's liturgy, it is a hymn of thanksgiving for the wonderful gift of salvation gained for us by Christ.

SECOND READING: 1 John 3:1-2

In these verses, John is seeking to convey to his readers the awesome privilege of children of God. In and through baptism we live in God's household. But one of the consequences of this reality is that the world, which rejected Jesus, will also reject us. Then John refers to what is called in theology "the already" and "not yet". Through baptism we are "already" children of the light, but our complete transformation in Christ has "not yet" been completed.

GOSPEL: John 10:11-18

In today's Gospel, Jesus uses the popular and well-loved image of a shepherd to describe himself. Chapter 10 of this Gospel follows the healing of the man born blind, whom the Pharisees treated shamefully. They also rejected Jesus' claim that he is from God. Jesus, the good shepherd, is defending his authority and rejecting that of the Pharisees. Like the hired hand, they have no true concern for their people.

There are two qualities that make Jesus a good shepherd. First, he lays down his life for his sheep and second, he and his sheep know one another. The former quality is the central point of this passage.

Jesus' reference to other sheep and to one flock underscores the universality and unity, which are to characterize this new community of believers. In Jesus' day, the other sheep may have referred to the poor, the tax collectors and sinners who were generally ostracized by society. For the Early Church, the other sheep may have been the Gentiles and others who had yet to hear the Good News. For us, the other sheep might be people of non-Christian religions and non-believers.

Jesus' way of shepherding the flock is not one of domination, but one of care and concern. On the other hand, true sheep are the ones who hear the shepherd's voice. In a world of a million lies, we sheep find our anchor and truth in Christ and his Word.

FAITH SHARING QUESTIONS

1. What verse, idea or image spoke to you most? Why?

2. Who are some modern examples of "rejected cornerstones" - people whose cause or work is not accepted by the general masses. Have you had a personal experience of being rejected for what you believe or for a cause you exposed?

3. What are some clear and subtle ways that "the world" rejects Jesus' message today? How does this rejection of his ways impact your efforts to follow him?

4. Why is the image of the Good Shepherd the most loved image of Jesus? Name one other image of Jesus that attracts you very much.

RESPONDING TO THE WORD

Name one way you can act on today's readings. Suggestion: Look out for some 'lost soul' that may need some good shepherding this week.

CONCLUDE WITH PRAYERS OF PETITION AND INTERCESSION

Pray for priests, deacons and all church leaders.