Lector's Notes

by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

Peter is telling people: You crucified your God and Messiah, but he has risen from death and offers you forgiveness of your sins. Of course they were cut to the heart. Your job as lector is to let today’s congregation hear words that have that power.

So pause dramatically between the words of Peter’s last sentence:

“God … has … made … both… LORD … and … CHRIST …… this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Don’t be afraid of overdoing it. It should give you, the lector, goose pimples to proclaim this; the congregation’s response will be milder, but significant, which is just right.

Second Reading

Three kinds of contrast call for our attention and expressive proclamation:

1. There are the contrasts between what Jesus suffered and his surprising responses: “…insulted, he returned no insult;” “when he suffered, he did not threaten.”

2. There are the contrasts between himself and us: HE bore OUR sins; by HIS wounds YOU (we) are healed.

3. And there is the contrast between our former lost condition and our gracious present state (astray versus returned).

Keep these contrasts in mind; pretend your hearers don’t have the text in front of them. You’ll know what to do at the lectern.

Introductions

by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

When Christianity drew pagan converts, they were curious about the short past of their new religion and its long roots in ancient Judaism. This section of Peter’s Pentecost preaching tells part of that history.

Second Reading

The First Letter of Peter wants to give readers a sense of God’s providence at work in the turbulent events they were enduring. Today the emphasis is on Jesus’ unexpected responses to events in his life.

Gospel

The original hearers of Saint John’s gospel were exposed to many religious choices. Only one of those was the way to life.

VIDEO SERIES

Study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Video Lessons on the “four pillars” of the Catechism

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1ST READINGRESPONSORIAL PSALM2ND READINGGOSPELFAITH SHARINGVOICESCATECHISM

Acts 2:14, 36-41

Bronze statue of Peter Preaching at Pentecost at St. Peter Catholic Church in Fallbrook, California (Slatoff Sculpture Studio, LLC)

Conclusion of Peter’s Sermon

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

FIRST READING—This reading is the conclusion of Peter’s sermon to the Jews assembled in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. The first paragraph summarizes the whole sermon. Jesus’ death reveals humankind’s complicity with evil and God’s immeasurable love for humankind. Convinced of their own sin and of God’s love for them, Peter’s audience is “deeply shaken” and asks, “What must we do?” Peter tells them that they must “repent, be baptized, and receive forgiveness and the Holy Spirit, who is given for you and for all who are far off.”

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

In order to receive the Spirit, reform and be baptized!

by Fr. Clement D. Thibodeau

SECOND READING—The name by which one is to be saved is now Jesus Christ, since this one has been elevated by the Father to the stature of “Lord and Messiah.”How can one be saved? Just repent and be baptized. Then, accept the empowerment of the Holy Spirit so that you have the life of God in you. What a summary of the dynamics of salvation! Repentance, of course, has to do with a complete “about-face,”a complete change from what we were to whatGod wants us to be, at the depth of the self and in our moral behavior. Just try to do that without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit!

© 2017Rev. Clement D. Thibodeau. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Further Study

In the First Reading, St. Peter takes up his role as the “shepherd” of Christ’s New Covenant people. He addresses the Jewish crowd outside the Upper Room on the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, telling them that repentance of sin followed by baptism in the name of Jesus the Messiah is the only way to eternal salvation.

The people in the crowd that Peter addresses

After the miracle at Pentecost, when the Apostles and other disciples emerged from the Upper Room after the filling and indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-13), they all began to profess Jesus’ Gospel of salvation joyfully. Most of the people in the crowd were Jews from the provinces across the Roman Empire who had traveled to Jerusalem to attend the required pilgrim feast of Weeks, known in Greek as Pentecost (Dt 16:16; 1 Chr 8:13). Miraculously, they all heard the message of the Gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ preached in their various languages and dialects. Then, St. Peter, Christ’s Vicar of His Kingdom of Heaven on earth, addressed the crowd, proclaiming that Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah promised by God’s holy prophets.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Repent and be baptized

Peter tells those who have responded positively to his Gospel message to repent and be baptized “in the name of Jesus.” Through the Sacrament of Baptism by water and the Spirit, they will be separated from their “corrupt generation” and become part of the “faithful remnant” of Israel that is ready to carry the Gospel message of the Messiah to the ends of the earth. Repentance leads to baptism, and baptism in the “name of Jesus” results in the forgiveness of sins (personal sin and original sin) and the gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The command to baptize “in the name of Jesus” is not a contradiction of the Trinitarian baptismal formula Jesus gave the Apostles in Matthew 28:19 but is a summation; in the “name of Jesus” implies baptism as Jesus’ previously instructed. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit generates new life in the believer who is no longer a child in the family of Adam but becomes a new creature and an adopted son or daughter of God. It is the rebirth “from above” and the salvation that Jesus spoke of in John 3:3-7 and 16-18. The Apostles and disciples, obedient to Jesus’ command to baptize, will continue to make use of baptism by water and the Spirit as the sacred ritual of spiritual birth and initiation into Christ’s Kingdom of the Church (Acts 2:41; 8:12, 38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:15, 33; 19:5).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The promise of salvation extended to all generations

39 “For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.”

According to verse 39, the promise of forgiveness and new life extends to all generations of humanity:

1. to the people listening to Peter,
2. to their descendants, and
3. to the Gentiles in distant lands.

God extends His promise of eternal salvation through God the Son to whoever hears the message of the Gospel and responds in faith.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

Ps 23: 1-3a, 3b4, 5, 6

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

RESPONSORIAL PSALM—In this well-loved psalm, the psalmist expresses a tremendous trust in God, our Good Shepherd


Further Study

The Responsorial Psalm is from the 23rd Psalm, probably the best-loved of all the 150 psalms. Attributed to the shepherd-king David, it expresses a personal reflection of the relationship between the psalmist and the nearness of his God. The psalmist frames his psalm around two metaphors: The Lord as the Divine Shepherd and the Lord as the Divine Host of the sacred meal.

Psalm 23's two metaphors

The psalm uses two metaphors: The Lord as the Divine Shepherd (verses 1-4), and the Lord as the Divine Host of the sacred meal (verses 5-6). In the ancient Near East and the Bible, the role of a shepherd was a metaphor for the king (2 Sam 5:2; Is 44:28; etc.). It is the same metaphor used to express the role of God, the Divine King, who is the protector and judge of His covenant people (Ps 28:9; Is 40:11; Ez 34:11-16).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Good Shepherd

Describing the aspects of shepherding, probably from David’s perspective as a shepherd in his youth, the inspired writer provides a picture of his relationship with God as he seeks to live a life of holiness (verses 2-3). Under the Divine Shepherd’s constant guidance, the psalmist and his people, who are the sheep of God’s flock, are led with tenderness and compassion. The Divine Shepherd takes into consideration the fears and weakness of His people, leading them not by the fearful raging rivers but by the quiet waters (sheep have a fear of drowning and will only drink from non-flowing water). His tender care gives the psalmist confidence that with God’s shepherding, he will reach the green pastures of God’s heavenly Kingdom (1 Pt 5:4; Rev 7:17). Even amid trials and sufferings, the psalmist feels a sense of security as he trusts in God to lead and protect him because, despite his enemies, God the Divine Host has prepared a table for him when the time comes for him to enter into God’s eternal rest. The psalmist is overwhelmed by the abundance of God’s mercy and covenant love (verses 5-6).

For Christians, this psalm takes on its full meaning in Jesus’ statement, “I am the Good Shepherd” (Jn 10:11, 14; Heb 13:20).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Divine Host

The fulfillment of the host metaphor of Psalm 23:5 is at the table of the Last Supper, where Jesus, the host of the sacred meal, offered His disciples the banquet of the Eucharist for the first time. Jesus continues in His role as the Divine Host as He offers His faithful the Eucharist on the altar table at every celebration of the Mass. It is a banquet that looks back in time to the Last Supper and forward in time to the heavenly banquet in God’s eternal Kingdom (Mt 26:26-30; Lk 22:14-20; Mk 14:22-26; Rev 19:5-9).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

1 Peter 2:20-25

Jesus, the Suffering Servant

Christians as suffering servants

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

SECOND READING—Peter is addressing slaves who have become Christians. He does not condemn the evil institution of slavery; he simply takes it for granted as Christians did for several hundred years after the coming of Jesus. Accepting that slavery is going to be around for a long time and that some slaves will become Christians and continue to suffer, Peter seeks to help them find some meaning in their suffering. He sets before them the example of Jesus who also suffered unjustly. Jesus’ attitude toward suffering is: if done for the right reason or motive, it can drastically change lives. A suffering servant can effect changes in the lives of those inflicting hardship and pain.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Christ gathered our sins and brought them to the Cross

by Fr. Clement D. Thibodeau

SECOND READING—The shepherd was God himself in the Jewish Scriptures. In the Christian Scriptures,Jesus Christ is the shepherd for God. Then, ministry in the Church is described in terms of shepherding the flock. Israel did not feel put down by the reference as flock of God. It was an honor accorded to no other nation! We should be happy that Christ has chosen us among all the creatures of the world to be “His sheep.”If we exercise shepherding in the Church, it is only in terms of Christ, the Good Shepherd, acting through the ministry of the Church. Why should we have to apologize for that?

© 2017Rev. Clement D. Thibodeau. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Further Study

In the Second Reading, St. Peter applies the familiar shepherd symbolism to the guidance Jesus offers to those who suffer. He promises God’s grace and salvation for those who endure unjust suffering for having done what is righteous. St. Peter continues the shepherd and sheep metaphors by quoting from Isaiah 53:5-6 concerning those who are “gone astray like sheep.” Jesus is the “Good Shepherd” (Jn 10:11) for Christians who were once lost but are now found and have returned to Him. The “returning” does not refer to Christians who have fallen away from Jesus. Instead, Peter is referring to the fundamental act of conversion in accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. The Christian journey of faith is one of continual repentance and conversion in “returning” to holiness and living in the image of Christ.

Finding meaning in suffering

In verses 20-25, Peter applies the shepherd metaphor to the guidance Jesus offers to those who suffer. There is no glory for those who suffer from temporal judgments due to sin, but there is the promise of God’s grace and salvation for those who endure unjust suffering for having done what is righteous. This form of suffering is “a grace from God” (charis para theo in verse 20). He presents the path of the Christian’s life as a calling to follow the pattern set by Christ in His suffering as well as in His glory (also see Rom 12:1). The phrase “follow closely in his footsteps” turns from the idea of imitating Jesus’ life pattern to the more dynamic metaphor of following so carefully as to walk in His “footsteps.”

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The plight of the Suffering Servant

In verse 22, Peter quotes the prophet Isaiah in 53:9b from the LXX: He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. Then in verses 22-25, continuing to be inspired by Isaiah chapter 53, he alludes to the plight of Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant, applying the passage to Christ’s Passion. In verse 24, he merges phrases and images from Isaiah 53:4, 7 and 11-12 and unites the keywords from those verses to the curse for one “hung on a tree” from Deuteronomy 22:22 (see the same allusion by St. Peter in Acts 5:30; 10:39 and by St. Paul in Gal 3:13). “By his wounds, you have been healed” is a direct quote from Isaiah 53:5b LXX except for changing “we” to “you” to fit the quotation into the context of his appeal in 2:24.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jesus as the Good Shepherd

In verse 25, Peter now shifts his imagery to the “shepherd and sheep” metaphors from Isaiah 53:5-6 and “gone astray like sheep” in verse 25 is a direct quote from Isaiah 53:6a. Jesus is the “Good Shepherd” (Jn 10:11) of Christians who have “now returned” to Him (verse 25). The returning does not refer to Christians who have fallen away from Jesus but refers instead to the fundamental conversion Peter spoke of in 1 Peter 1:14-16, 22, and 23. The Christian journey of faith is one of continual repentance and conversion in “returning” to holiness and living in the image of Christ.

The Gospels apply the same shepherd imagery St. Peter used in this passage to Jesus (Mt 9:36; 10:6; 15:24; 26:31; Mk 6:34; 14:27; Jn 10:11-18). Peter uses the same metaphor for Jesus in 1 Peter 5:4, where he calls Jesus the “chief Shepherd.” Peter also uses the shepherd imagery for the leadership of the Christian community (cf 1 Pt 5:3), those who “shepherd” Jesus’ “flock” and “feed” them spiritually through Jesus’ teachings and the Sacrament of the Eucharist, as Jesus commanded Peter, “Feed my sheep” (Jn 21:15-17).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

John 10:1-10

Jesus, the Good Shepherd

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who does not abuse his flock

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

GOSPEL— This Gospel follows Chapter 9 of John in which the Pharisees are depicted as blind leaders and bad shepherds. They fail to recognize Jesus as the “Light of the World.” They excommunicate from the synagogue the blind man who does recognize and accept Jesus. Jesus replaces these blind guides and assumes leadership of his flock. He is the Good Shepherd who does not abuse his flock by tossing them out; rather, he lays down his very life for them. His willingness to put his life at risk for his followers makes Jesus a much more qualified leader than the Pharisees who are “thieves and robbers” who do not really care for the sheep.Jesus is the Good Shepherd who knows his flock by name. They recognize his voice and follow him as he leads them to good pastures. There is a close personal relationship between Jesus and his flock.Jesus also describes himself as “the Gate for his sheep.” He is the way to the Father and to eternal life.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Christ is the Divine Shepherd of Israel

by Fr. Clement D. Thibodeau

GOSPEL— The Church today has a lot of characteristics similar to the Church of John’s Gospel. We are now somewhat removed from the initial experience of Christ’s life and presence to the disciples. Time has passed. Other voices begin to interpret what has happened. There are competing messages being heard. Some say that the Christian Gospel means one thing; others say it means something else. There are different ways being suggested. The Church has grown and has had a variety of experiences. A good deal of pain has been endured. That has brought its own kind of perspective. Various philosophies and human ways of looking at life have become absorbed into the reflections that people bring to the Christian message. What is the truth now? Where should we look for the authentic voice that leads to salvation?

John summons the Church back to its roots in the Hebrew experience of God. Was not God himself the Shepherd of Israel? And is Jesus Christ not that new shepherd since he is the complete embodiment of God in the new dispensation?

Shepherds had been a distinguished group of people at one time. They represented the divine image. The shepherd king, David, that gentle boy who had led the people to glory and prestige, had been identified as the representative of God on earth. Shepherds were unselfish servants of the flock. They provided everything for their sheep: food, drink, shelter, defense against enemies. Shepherds gave their sheep an identity, a safety, an opportunity to grow and to be useful. Had not the prophets referred to God as the Shepherd of the Flock which was Israel? The king was only a pale image of the God who cared for his people.

Now, in Christian times, this language and the reality behind it is reclaimed: Christ has laid down his life for the sheep. Who else has a right to claim the flock? Jesus calls himself the door or gate by which the sheep enter. Doors are either open or closed. They close to protect and they open to allow passage in and out.

We take doors for granted. Gates are just there, but how essential they are to the well-being and the safety of domesticated animals and of people.

Is Jesus Christ just there, taken for granted, expected to be there because he has always been there? Jesus Christ is our true access to the kingdom of God. He guards us against every foe. He protects us from the threat of evil. Who else can we trust so completely? I was once in Ireland with a young priest of our diocese. He brought me to an ancient church off a remote country lane. The area was quite overgrown with brambles and bushes. The church building itself was really quite small and weather beaten. But the door was enormous, quite out of proportion to the rest of the edifice. It was set in a gigantic, multi-layered series of carved stone arches, leading to the door itself. There was no question that this door represented Christ! For the first time, I understood some of what Jesus meant when he said he was the gate and the door of salvation!

Would we want to follow a voice that is not truly that of the Good Shepherd? Should we not value the sturdy door that is Christ the Lord? Can we afford to take chances with doors and gates that are not the real thing?

The world in which we live is as dangerous as the one in which the community of John lived. There is one Shepherd who is sure; He is the door and the gate of salvation.

© 2017Rev. Clement D. Thibodeau. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Further Study

In the Gospel Reading, Jesus uses shepherd and sheep imagery to identify Himself as the “Good Shepherd” of the “sheepfold” that is the Church, the community of God’s re-born New Covenant people. The Church is the protective sheepfold that brings the covenant people together and through the Sacraments into union with Christ. The gate to the “sheepfold” is Jesus Christ, the only one through whom believers have access to the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, the Church, that administers the Sacraments of Jesus Christ and prepares the faithful for the journey to their home in Heaven and eternal life.

The New Covenant Church

“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.

The sheepfold is the Church, the community of God’s re-born New Covenant people. The New Covenant Church is the safe sheepfold where the Shepherd/Christ brings the sheep/covenant people together and nourishes them through the Sacraments into union with Him. The gate is Jesus Christ, the one through whom believers have access to the community, which is Christ’s Kingdom of Heaven on earth. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: The Church is, accordingly, a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ. It is also the flock of which God himself foretold that he would be the shepherd, and whose sheep, even though governed by human shepherds, are unfailingly nourished and led by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and Prince of Shepherds, who gave his life for his sheep (CCC 754).

Entering through Christ is the only way into the New Covenant He is establishing in fulfillment of the prophecies of the prophets Jeremiah (31:31), Ezekiel (Chapters 34-37), and Zechariah (Chapters 9-14). Jesus fulfills Yahweh’s promise when He said, “I myself” will shepherd my sheep in Ezekiel 34:11, 15, and 20. Jesus, son of David (Mt 1:1), is the promised heir of the eternal Davidic covenant in Ezekiel 34:23 when God said: I shall raise up one shepherd, my servant David, and put him in charge of them, to pasture them; he will pasture them and be their shepherd.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jesus as gate

There are no other ways to enter the sheepfold/covenant that promised eternal salvation; the one way is through the gate. There is only one gate, and that gate is Jesus Christ! St. Augustine wrote about his role as a shepherd of Jesus’ flock:

I seeking to enter in among you, that is, into your heart, to preach Christ: if I were to preach other than that, I should be trying to enter by some other way. Through Christ, I enter in, not to your houses but to your hearts. Through him, I enter, and you have willingly heard me speak of him. Why? Because you are Christ’s sheep, and you have been purchased with Christ’s blood (St. Augustine, In Ioannis Evangelium [The Gospel of John] 47, 2-3).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Thieves and robbers

Whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.

Those who try to enter the Church and claim its promises through someone other than Jesus Christ are not legitimate members of the covenant. They harm the Church through their cunning [thieves] by deceiving the people and violence [robbers] when they separate people from Jesus Eternal Covenant (Heb 13:20) through false teaching. Thieves and robbers enter from “elsewhere” (verse1) with their own agenda instead of submitting to Christ and adhering to the teachings of His Church. This “elsewhere/another way” is a significant difference. In three previous discourses, Jesus laid great stress on the source from which He comes. His origin is from God the Father, which is the chief difference between Himself and His opponents, who are the thieves and robbers. Thieves and robbers do not come from a known location; instead, they come from some unknown, unfamiliar direction and by an origin and authority of their own.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jesus as shepherd, gate and gatekeeper

2 But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

The flock represents the “chosen people”; those called to be part of God’s holy Covenant (see Ez 34:6). Jesus is both the “gate” and the “gatekeeper” (see verses 7 and 9). It is only through Him that the shepherds/ministerial priesthood can enter in to shepherd the Covenant people. In the Old Testament, God gave His people prophets like Moses and Jeremiah, priests and prophets like Aaron and Samuel, and kings like David and Solomon to “shepherd” them. Jesus of Nazareth fulfills all these offices of leadership. He is the Messiah the Old Testament prophets promised was coming as the supreme priest, prophet, and Davidic King of Israel (CCC 436, 1547).

Jesus identifies Himself as the “shepherd” and the “gate” as well as the “gatekeeper.” The community of the faithful (the Church) is both the sheepfold and the flock in this parable. Jesus applies to Himself the image of the gate or door with the understanding that He is the only legitimate way into the “sheepfold,” which is the Church, and those who shepherd His flock only do so under His, “the gatekeeper’s,” authority.

Citing this passage, the Magisterium teaches: “The Church is a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ (cf. Jn 10:1-10). It is also a flock, of which God foretold that He Himself would be the shepherd (cf. Is 40:11; Ez 34:11ff). The sheep, although watched over by human shepherds, are nevertheless at all times led and brought to pasture by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and Prince of Shepherds (cf. Jn 10:11, 1 Pet 5:4) who gave his life for His sheep (cf. Jn 10:11-15)” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 6).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The sheep hear his voice

4 When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. 5 But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.

In Jesus’ time, villages had a communal sheepfold where the various shepherds brought their sheep for protection during the night. In the morning, each shepherd called his sheep, and they followed him out of the gate of the sheepfold. In Wendell Keller’s book A Shepherd Looks at the 23 Psalms, Keller speaks of this phenomenon. The sheep that have been raised by one shepherd would indeed run from the unfamiliar voice of a stranger. Since Jesus’ ministry was only to the Jews and Israelites of the Galilee at this time, He was leading those who recognized Him through the writings of the prophets as the Messiah whose voice they needed to follow out of the Old Covenant and into the New (Jer 31:31). This action was fulfilling the prophecy of God’s holy prophet Micah: I shall assemble the whole of Jacob, I shall gather the remnant of Israel, I shall gather them together like sheep in an enclosure. And like a flock within the fold, they will bleat far away from anyone; their leader will break out first, then all break out through the gate and escape, with their king leading the way and with Yahweh at their head (Mic 2:12-13 NJB; emphasis added).

There are dangers for the sheep if they do not recognize the shepherd’s voice. The flock or individual sheep can be deceived and misled, just as those within the Church can be deceived and led astray by following the voice of a false teacher. Since there are “thieves” and “robbers/bandits” who may be calling to us, we must know the voice of Christ through His teachings in the New Testament, so we are not misled. To study Sacred Scripture through the teaching authority of the Church (the Magisterium), and to faithfully receive the Sacraments is the best way to become familiar with our Shepherd’s voice. The Apostles’ successors, the Bishops along with Peter’s successor, the Pope, help to guide the faithful people of the Holy Catholic Church.

St. Jose Maria Escriva wrote: “Christ has given his Church sureness in doctrine and a fountain of grace in the Sacraments. He has arranged things so that there will always be people to guide and lead us, to remind us constantly of our way. There is an infinite treasure of knowledge available to us: the word of God kept safe by the Church, the grace of Christ administered in the Sacraments, and also the witness and example of those who live by our side and have known how to build with their good lives on a road of faithfulness to God” (Christ is Passing By, page 34).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

Reflection Questions

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

1. Turn to the person next to you and share what word/s or image/s in the readings caught your attention. Did they comfort or challenge you or touch you in some way? Which part of the Passion story speaks to you most this year? Why?

2. In the first reading, Peter’s congregation is “cut to the heart” as they hear him preach. Has this kind of conviction or spiritual awakening ever happened to you as a result of a homily or as a result of some other event in your life?

3. What are forms of slavery (second reading) in our world today? What if anything, can we do to oppose slavery?

4. What are traits of a good shepherd? How can you be a good shepherd to others?5. Name one thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Questions for Discussion

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

1. Do you know anything about shepherds and their flocks? Do you have a sense of security when you look to Jesus as your guide, your teacher, and your model? Do you trust that Jesus Christ will protect you from the ravenous wolves that seek to destroy your soul? Or, has all this stuff just become some old, out-of-date imagery for you?

2. Do you trust the Church and its leaders as authentic representatives of Jesus the Good Shepherd and the Gate of Heaven? What meaning and value are you able to give to the Church as the guide of your salvation? Can the pope be trusted in this day and age, so complicated by competing values and divergent points of view? What about the American bishops? Do you trust them? What about the priests and lay leaders of your parish community?

3. Do you suppose John was aware of some of the same issues we face today when he wrote this Gospel for his community? Uncertainties abounded there,too! He had to provide a sure guide. How does this message reassure you today? Can you begin to see that Jesus is still present and active through the ministry of human shepherds to this very day? How can you communicate some of this assurance to others?

4. How can you trust the preaching of priests who teach from the pulpit when you know that a few priests have been unfaithful to their vows?

© 2017Rev. Clement D. Thibodeau. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Call to Action

Be a good shepherd for someone going through a tough time. If someone is or has been a good shepherd to you, consider letting him/her know.

Shared Prayer

Thank you, Jesus, for being our Good Shepherd. Help me to hear your voice. Help me to make good use of the pastures you give me. Amen.

Closing Prayer

Prayers for Priests and for Vocations: Jesus, good and gentle Shepherd,I thank you for the men who have heard and responded to your call to priesthood.Place in their hearts a deep desire to love and serve you and the people you have placed in their care.May their word to us be your Word. And may we hear and act on your Word. Protect and guard your priests from false and sinful ways. Keep them in your truth. Help them to grow in holiness. Help us, your people, to love and support your priests by word and deed.Lord of the harvest, may all those whom you are calling to the priesthood and religious life hear and answer your call. Show us, as a parish, ways to foster vocations.Jesus, bless all Vocations Directors;help them to discover effective ways to call men and women to the priesthood and religious life. Amen

SUNDAY VOICES

Video by Larry Broding. Visit Word-Sunday.com website for detailed commentary and other resources regarding the readings for this Sunday.


Introduction to 4th Sunday of Easter readings

EXCERPT — Today’s Gospel focuses on Jesus’ identity as the shepherd using the familiar Hebrew Scripture imagery. Jesus is both the gate to the sheepfold and the shepherd willing to suffer for his flock. The invitation is to follow this wounded shepherd, knowing that we have been healed precisely by his wounds. In a world obsessed with power and strength, what image would motivate someone to follow him?

PENITENTIAL ACT

Lord Jesus, you identify yourself as the gate for the sheepfold: Lord, have mercy. Christ Jesus, you are the protective shepherd whose voice conveys life: Christ, have mercy. Lord Jesus, you call us to follow you that we might have life: Lord, have mercy.

NCR SUNDAY RESOURCESJoan DeMerchant


Re-imagining sheep

EXCERPT – Preaching on this Sunday has its challenges… Sheep are dumb animals. They have very little initiative or energy, and they are easily led around by whoever would want to manipulate them. Is this image of being a sheep really a useful image for a disciple in the twenty-first century?…But they can also be assertive and strong. These two qualities together provide a very useful image for discipleship in the twenty-first century. We are called by Christ to be disciples who are not only peaceful but also assertive, not only docile but also strong.

RELATED HOMILIES BY FR. SIGMA: Praying for the Shepherd, Going in and out, Practicing non-violence

BUILDING ON THE WORD – Fr. George Sigma


Christ exercises his ministry today through the ministry of the Church

EXCERPT – The Church has always acted on the conviction that Christ continues to be present in its midst and that Christ exercises his ministry today through the ministry of the Church. In matters of faith and morals that are meant to be binding on the whole Church, then, of course, the highest authority of the Church is the only competent authority through which Christ can be presumed to be acting. Ecumenical councils in union with the pope, or the pope acting in moral unanimity with the bishops of the whole world, make those kinds of decisions. And I give the same kind of trust to those pronouncements as I do to the words of Christ himself as recorded in the Scriptures.

Echoing God’s WordS – Rev. Clement D. Thimbodeau (1932-2017)


Moral exhortation needed in today’s preaching

EXCERPT – 3,000 new members in one day (Acts 2:36-41)? Why don’t we see that happening in our Church now? There is not enough space to respond adequately! However, let me ask you: how often do you hear a preacher give a homily that calls you to repent? I suspect that most people overlook that last line in Peter’s message today: “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Yes, this is indeed a corrupt generation today, in the year 2008 – probably worse than in Peter’s time, because we have no excuse. Immorality, violence, baby-killing, political and commercial chicanery at its worst, total disregard for both the natural law of God as well as the scriptural revelations about right living – – the list of corruption is endless!

MASS HOMILIES – Deacon Joseph Pasquella (Confraternity of Penitents)


The key to this Sunday’s Gospel

EXCERPT — This Sunday’s Gospel presents us with the familiar image of the Good Shepherd. When speaking of the sheep of God’s flock, Jesus uses several images to describe the attitude of those who look after the flock. The text of the liturgy is taken from verses 1 to 10. In our commentary we add verses 11 to 18 because these contain the image of the “Good Shepherd” and help us better understand the sense of verses 1 to 10. During the reading, try to pay attention to the various images or similes that Jesus uses to present to us the way a true shepherd ought to be.

THE ORDER OF CARMELITESLectio Divina: Sundays of Lent


Peter spreads a contagious state of grace

EXCERPT — The Easter disciples weren’t teaching dogma; they were trying to spread a contagious state of grace. They invited people to baptism as a sacramental action — as transformative, participative theater that made a real scene of what they were talking about. Baptism images new birth. It recalls the days of creation when the land sprang up from the sea and God formed humans from a recipe of earth and water, and blew the divine spirit into them. Baptism symbolizes entrance into the realm of death so that God can raise you up.

NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTERMary M. McGlone, CSJ


How can Christ unite us in suffering

EXCERPT — As we continue through the Easter season, today’s readings illuminate the implications and salvation that come from Christ’s suffering on the cross. As we continue to suffer hardships related to Covid-19, the readings offer guidance to help us endure during this difficult time…Over these recent months, we have seen many people suffering and dying because of Covid-19, and many others face the less visible suffering of isolation, anxiety and poverty. We can find some comfort in 1 Peter and try to endure our collective pain following the model of Christ, not retaliating against one another but instead facing our challenges while working for the common good.

AMERICA MAGAZINEJamie Waters


The sheepgate

EXCERPT — The Good Shepherd, as we all know, is one of the abiding pictures of Christ in Christian imagination. Words like “pastor” and “pastoral care” draw their meaning and power from the image of Jesus as the kind and caring guide of the flock. The sheep approach the protection of the sheepfold through the gate. Those who climb in by other ways—over the rocks and brambles—are either robbers or predators. The true shepherd enters and leaves first, calling their names; at the sound of his voice they follow.

SUNDAY WEB SITEFather John Kavanaugh, SJ

THIS WEEK’S CATECHISM EXCERPTS

Visit Doctrinal Homily Outlines for further commentary and catechetical connections.

“By using the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the homilist can help his people integrate the word of God, the faith of the Church, the moral demands of the Gospel, and their personal and liturgical spirituality.”

From the Homiletic Directory
  • Christ the Shepherd and Gate
  • Pope and bishops as shepherds
  • Priests as shepherds
  • Conversion, faith, and baptism
  • Christ an example in bearing wrongs

Christ the Shepherd and Gate

Symbols of the Church

754 “The Church is, accordingly, a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ. It is also the flock of which God himself foretold that he would be the shepherd, and whose sheep, even though governed by human shepherds, are unfailingly nourished and led by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and Prince of Shepherds, who gave his life for his sheep.146

The Church – instituted by Christ Jesus

764 “This Kingdom shines out before men in the word, in the works and in the presence of Christ.”163 To welcome Jesus’ word is to welcome “the Kingdom itself.”164 The seed and beginning of the Kingdom are the “little flock” of those whom Jesus came to gather around him, the flock whose shepherd he is.165 They form Jesus’ true family.166 To those whom he thus gathered around him, he taught a new “way of acting” and a prayer of their own.167

Prayer to Jesus

2665 The prayer of the Church, nourished by the Word of God and the celebration of the liturgy, teaches us to pray to the Lord Jesus. Even though her prayer is addressed above all to the Father, it includes in all the liturgical traditions forms of prayer addressed to Christ. Certain psalms, given their use in the Prayer of the Church, and the New Testament place on our lips and engrave in our hearts prayer to Christ in the form of invocations: Son of God, Word of God, Lord, Savior, Lamb of God, King, Beloved Son, Son of the Virgin, Good Shepherd, our Life, our Light, our Hope, our Resurrection, Friend of mankind. . . .

Pope and bishops as shepherds

“The keys of the kingdom”

553 Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”287 The “power of the keys” designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: “Feed my sheep.”288 The power to “bind and loose” connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles289 and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom.

IV. THE CHURCH IS APOSTOLIC

857 The Church is apostolic because she is founded on the apostles, in three ways:

– she was and remains built on “the foundation of the Apostles,”362 the witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself;363

– with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching,364 the “good deposit,” the salutary words she has heard from the apostles;365

– she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the apostles until Christ’s return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of bishops, “assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Church’s supreme pastor”:366

You are the eternal Shepherd
who never leaves his flock untended.
Through the apostles
you watch over us and protect us always.
You made them shepherds of the flock
to share in the work of your Son. . . .367

The bishops – successors of the apostles

861 “In order that the mission entrusted to them might be continued after their death, [the apostles] consigned, by will and testament, as it were, to their immediate collaborators the duty of completing and consolidating the work they had begun, urging them to tend to the whole flock, in which the Holy Spirit had appointed them to shepherd the Church of God. They accordingly designated such men and then made the ruling that likewise on their death other proven men should take over their ministry.”374

The episcopal college and its head, the Pope

881 The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the “rock” of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock.400 “The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head.”401 This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church’s very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.

The governing office

896 The Good Shepherd ought to be the model and “form” of the bishop’s pastoral office. Conscious of his own weaknesses, “the bishop . . . can have compassion for those who are ignorant and erring. He should not refuse to listen to his subjects whose welfare he promotes as of his very own children. . . . The faithful . . . should be closely attached to the bishop as the Church is to Jesus Christ, and as Jesus Christ is to the Father”:428

Let all follow the bishop, as Jesus Christ follows his Father, and the college of presbyters as the apostles; respect the deacons as you do God’s law. Let no one do anything concerning the Church in separation from the bishop.429

Episcopal ordination – fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders

1558 “Episcopal consecration confers, together with the office of sanctifying, also the offices of teaching and ruling. . . . In fact . . . by the imposition of hands and through the words of the consecration, the grace of the Holy Spirit is given, and a sacred character is impressed in such wise that bishops, in an eminent and visible manner, take the place of Christ himself, teacher, shepherd, and priest, and act as his representative (in Eius persona agant).”37 “By virtue, therefore, of the Holy Spirit who has been given to them, bishops have been constituted true and authentic teachers of the faith and have been made pontiffs and pastors.”38

1561 The above considerations explain why the Eucharist celebrated by the bishop has a quite special significance as an expression of the Church gathered around the altar, with the one who represents Christ, the Good Shepherd and Head of his Church, presiding.42

The ordination of priests – co-workers of the bishops

1568 “All priests, who are constituted in the order of priesthood by the sacrament of Order, are bound together by an intimate sacramental brotherhood, but in a special way they form one priestly body in the diocese to which they are attached under their own bishop. . . .”52 The unity of the presbyterium finds liturgical expression in the custom of the presbyters’ imposing hands, after the bishop, during the rite of ordination.

1574 As in all the sacraments additional rites surround the celebration. Varying greatly among the different liturgical traditions, these rites have in common the expression of the multiple aspects of sacramental grace. Thus in the Latin Church, the initial rites – presentation and election of the ordinand, instruction by the bishop, examination of the candidate, litany of the saints – attest that the choice of the candidate is made in keeping with the practice of the Church and prepare for the solemn act of consecration, after which several rites symbolically express and complete the mystery accomplished: for bishop and priest, an anointing with holy chrism, a sign of the special anointing of the Holy Spirit who makes their ministry fruitful; giving the book of the Gospels, the ring, the miter, and the crosier to the bishop as the sign of his apostolic mission to proclaim the Word of God, of his fidelity to the Church, the bride of Christ, and his office as shepherd of the Lord’s flock; presentation to the priest of the paten and chalice, “the offering of the holy people” which he is called to present to God; giving the book of the Gospels to the deacon who has just received the mission to proclaim the Gospel of Christ.

Priests as shepherds

Why the ecclesial ministry?

874 Christ is himself the source of ministry in the Church. He instituted the Church. He gave her authority and mission, orientation and goal:

In order to shepherd the People of God and to increase its numbers without cease, Christ the Lord set up in his Church a variety of offices which aim at the good of the whole body. The holders of office, who are invested with a sacred power, are, in fact, dedicated to promoting the interests of their brethren, so that all who belong to the People of God . . . may attain to salvation.389

The Sacraments

1121 The three sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders confer, in addition to grace, a sacramental character or “seal” by which the Christian shares in Christ’s priesthood and is made a member of the Church according to different states and functions. This configuration to Christ and to the Church, brought about by the Spirit, is indelible,40 it remains for ever in the Christian as a positive disposition for grace, a promise and guarantee of divine protection, and as a vocation to divine worship and to the service of the Church. Therefore these sacraments can never be repeated.

Sacrament of Penance

1465 When he celebrates the sacrament of Penance, the priest is fulfilling the ministry of the Good Shepherd who seeks the lost sheep, of the Good Samaritan who binds up wounds, of the Father who awaits the prodigal son and welcomes him on his return, and of the just and impartial judge whose judgment is both just and merciful. The priest is the sign and the instrument of God’s merciful love for the sinner.

Sacrament of Holy Orders

1536 Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate.

In the person of Christ the Head . . .

1548 In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth. This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis:23

It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person his minister truly represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is truly made like to the high priest and possesses the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself (virtute ac persona ipsius Christi).24Christ is the source of all priesthood: the priest of the old law was a figure of Christ, and the priest of the new law acts in the person of Christ.25

1549 Through the ordained ministry, especially that of bishops and priests, the presence of Christ as head of the Church is made visible in the midst of the community of believers.26 In the beautiful expression of St. Ignatius of Antioch, the bishop is typos tou Patros: he is like the living image of God the Father.27

1550 This presence of Christ in the minister is not to be understood as if the latter were preserved from all human weaknesses, the spirit of domination, error, even sin. The power of the Holy Spirit does not guarantee all acts of ministers in the same way. While this guarantee extends to the sacraments, so that even the minister’s sin cannot impede the fruit of grace, in many other acts the minister leaves human traces that are not always signs of fidelity to the Gospel and consequently can harm the apostolic fruitfulness of the Church.

1551 This priesthood is ministerial. “That office . . . which the Lord committed to the pastors of his people, is in the strict sense of the term a service.”28 It is entirely related to Christ and to men. It depends entirely on Christ and on his unique priesthood; it has been instituted for the good of men and the communion of the Church. The sacrament of Holy Orders communicates a “sacred power” which is none other than that of Christ. The exercise of this authority must therefore be measured against the model of Christ, who by love made himself the least and the servant of all.29 “The Lord said clearly that concern for his flock was proof of love for him.”30

The ordination of priests – co-workers of the bishops

1564 “Whilst not having the supreme degree of the pontifical office, and notwithstanding the fact that they depend on the bishops in the exercise of their own proper power, the priests are for all that associated with them by reason of their sacerdotal dignity; and in virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, after the image of Christ, the supreme and eternal priest, they are consecrated in order to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful as well as to celebrate divine worship as true priests of the New Testament.”46

The Sunday Eucharist

2179 “A parish is a definite community of the Christian faithful established on a stable basis within a particular church; the pastoral care of the parish is entrusted to a pastor as its own shepherd under the authority of the diocesan bishop.”115 It is the place where all the faithful can be gathered together for the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. The parish initiates the Christian people into the ordinary expression of the liturgical life: it gathers them together in this celebration; it teaches Christ’s saving doctrine; it practices the charity of the Lord in good works and brotherly love:

You cannot pray at home as at church, where there is a great multitude, where exclamations are cried out to God as from one great heart, and where there is something more: the union of minds, the accord of souls, the bond of charity, the prayers of the priests.116

Servants of Prayer

2686 Ordained ministers are also responsible for the formation in prayer of their brothers and sisters in Christ. Servants of the Good Shepherd, they are ordained to lead the People of God to the living waters of prayer: the Word of God, the liturgy, the theological life (the life of faith, hope, and charity), and the Today of God in concrete situations.45

Conversion, faith, and baptism

Faith and Baptism

1253 Baptism is the sacrament of faith.54 But faith needs the community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe. The faith required for Baptism is not a perfect and mature faith, but a beginning that is called to develop. The catechumen or the godparent is asked: “What do you ask of God’s Church?” The response is: “Faith!”

1254 For all the baptized, children or adults, faith must grow after Baptism. For this reason the Church celebrates each year at the Easter Vigil the renewal of baptismal promises. Preparation for Baptism leads only to the threshold of new life. Baptism is the source of that new life in Christ from which the entire Christian life springs forth.

1255 For the grace of Baptism to unfold, the parents’ help is important. So too is the role of the godfather and godmother, who must be firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized – child or adult on the road of Christian life.55 Their task is a truly ecclesial function (officium).56 The whole ecclesial community bears some responsibility for the development and safeguarding of the grace given at Baptism.

The Conversion of the Baptized

1427 Jesus calls to conversion. This call is an essential part of the proclamation of the kingdom: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.”16 In the Church’s preaching this call is addressed first to those who do not yet know Christ and his Gospel. Also, Baptism is the principal place for the first and fundamental conversion. It is by faith in the Gospel and by Baptism17 that one renounces evil and gains salvation, that is, the forgiveness of all sins and the gift of new life.

1428 Christ’s call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, “clasping sinners to her bosom, [is] at once holy and always in need of purification, [and] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.”18 This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a “contrite heart,” drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first.19

1429 St. Peter’s conversion after he had denied his master three times bears witness to this. Jesus’ look of infinite mercy drew tears of repentance from Peter and, after the Lord’s resurrection, a threefold affirmation of love for him.20 The second conversion also has a communitarian dimension, as is clear in the Lord’s call to a whole Church: “Repent!”21

St. Ambrose says of the two conversions that, in the Church, “there are water and tears: the water of Baptism and the tears of repentance.”22

Christ an example in bearing wrongs

Our participation in Christ’s sacrifice

618 The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the “one mediator between God and men”.452 But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, “the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery” is offered to all men.453 He calls his disciples to “take up [their] cross and follow [him]”,454 for “Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example so that [we] should follow in his steps.”455 In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries.456 This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering.457

Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.458

Love for the Poor

2447 The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities.242 Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.243 Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God:244

He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none and he who has food must do likewise.245 But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you.246 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?247


SOURCES/CREDITS:
Fr. Tobin Commentary Text: ©2019 Fr. Eamon Tobin, Commentaries & Faith Sharing PDF Handout. Images, videos, scripture verses, and other material which accompany Fr. Tobin’s text are curated by LectioTube.com. They do not necessarily reflect Fr. Tobin’s opinions or preferences. Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission.
Agape Bible Study excerpts by Michal E. Hunt are used with permission. In addition to the website’s 54 studies and hundreds of resources, their Facebook page has short lessons on the day’s Gospel reading.
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