April 26, 2015
by Dick Hauser, S.J.
Creighton University's Department of Theology
click here for photo and information about the writer

Fourth Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 50

Acts 4:8-12
Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29
1 John 3:1-2
John 10:11-18

Celebrating Easter

Today's Easter Prayer

"I am the good shepherd, says the Lord;
I know my sheep, and mine know me.”

No words of Jesus are more central to my faith than these.

In 1980 I was on sabbatical in Rome. I recall visiting the Vatican Museum and discovering the statue of Jesus the Good Shepherd. Jesus is presented in this second century sculpture as a  young, beardless man wearing a knee-length tunic and carrying a lamb. I was surprised because I assumed that first images of Jesus would be the crucifixion. Then I recalled that Christianity was forbidden and Christians were persecuted for following Jesus — indeed put to cruel deaths in the Coliseum.  Consequently Christians had to practice faith in secret. The shepherd image could be interpreted as a slave carrying a lamb to sacrifice to a Roman god. 

After my sabbatical I resumed my university ministry as priest-teacher  and chaplain in a residence hall. During that spring semester tragedy struck.  We experienced  deaths of six of our students in two accidents, students hit by drunken drivers. I knew well  several of the students; one lived directly across the hall from me. In the following weeks I spent many hours counseling grieving students and their families, while at the same time trying to fulfill my other university duties. I became exhausted.

One weekend I sought renewal at a retreat. The director asked us to dialogue with Jesus.  The second century image of Jesus the Good Shepherd carrying that lamb on his shoulders popped into my mind.  I recall vividly saying to Jesus, “You carry me and I’ll carry your sheep.” And I recall just as vividly Jesus saying to me, “You carry my sheep and I will carry you.”  I  had heard the voice mentioned in today’s gospel, “My sheep hear my voice."

This experience of Jesus was more profound any other I could recall. I received renewed energy by His presence and was able to return to my ministry of caring for others.

We Christians are invited to make the words of today’s responsorial psalm our own  --  words quoted by  Peter’s preaching in Acts of the Apostles, ”The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.”  Jesus the Good Shepherd is the cornerstone of our faith.

And  John’s letter  witnesses to our new depth of intimacy with God. The Risen Jesus dwells within us  and we now become part of God’s own family,  ”See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called children of God.”

It is impossible to exaggerate God’s  gift to us through the Resurrected Jesus, so let us rejoice: ”This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it."

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