Acts 4: 8-12; IJn 3: 1-2; John 10: 11-18
Every year on the Fourth Sunday of Easter we hear from the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel and his account of the the Good Shepherd, on what we call, Good Shepherd Sunday. Yet, for what we know of this image, which is probably the most prevalent in all of Scripture, it often seems to stand at odds with Jesus and even the words, good and shepherd seem to be more in conflict than anything. However, Jesus manages to pull together these seemingly opposing opposites and identifies himself as the Good Shepherd.
In the gospels, when Jesus is confronted by the rich young man he even questions him in calling him good. His reply is, “God alone is good.” And the shepherds, well, we know how unfaithful they have often been from David right on down to the shepherds who become the chosen ones of the incarnation that we hear at Christmas, because they are seen as suspicious, dangerous, involved in risky business, at times thieves, and even to this day, some who live in isolation from the rest of the community because of how they have been labeled and looked down upon and so often living down to that level.
Yet, Jesus says I am the good shepherd. Jesus manages to reconcile the good and the shepherd of our own humanity, and through the Crucified Christ now raised from the dead, is salvation, the kingdom, brought to fruition in the life of the community. It’s the debate that Peter finds himself in today. Now this is nothing new for Peter. He’s been in this situation before when him and the other disciples question Jesus in the gospels about those who are being healed by others than the “chosen” ones. Now he’s in a different position. Now he knows in his very being, Christ crucified, now raised from the dead, as more than just an event but a reality in his life and that of the community. He pretty much tells them the details of the healing of the crippled man really don’t matter. How it happened or what took place. What matters is that he was healed and can now be with the community in the fullness. It was and is through the power of the Crucified One now raised that we believe he has been healed. As a matter of fact, it is only through Christ that we seek and find healing, forgiveness, reconciliation. The Christ goes to the place where we have been isolated. Christ goes to the place where there has been hurting. Christ comes into the world and appears to the least, the shepherds in the fields, to offer a message of hope in the midst of the their lives.
But Peter had another issue to deal with and one we deal with in our own society and culture. He emphasizes that salvation and the breaking in of the kingdom comes in and through Christ. Yet, so often they were led to believe that it came through the Emperor or the political leaders of their day. We know from Herod that it was more out of fear that leaders often rally the troops. If we wait for leaders to bring healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation, we will be waiting for quite some time.
Now we find ourselves as a city facing some deeply-seeded hurting going on these days and for the past weeks and it is us, the believers, as it was in the early community with Peter, who are called to be love to the community and this city. If we reduce everything to politics, we find ourselves in ongoing situations like this one, with hurt leading to more hurt, divisiveness leading to more divisiveness, and trying to prove one’s right and one’s wrong. As it was for Peter, we’re missing the point. We’re missing the point that it is healing that needs to take place. We’re missing the point that it is reconciliation that needs to take place. We’re missing the point that it is forgiveness that needs to take place. It is Christ crucified, now raised from the dead, that comes and brings reconciliation. Christ reconciles the good and the shepherd. It’s Christ that reconciles the shepherd and the sheep. It’s Christ that reconciles the good, the bad, and ugly of our own lives. For it is only in Christ in our own lives, that when healed, we no longer have to respond to violence with more violence, but rather with love. We are God’s children and so we are as John tells us in the Second Reading.
There’s a lot of good in our lives and city, but there’s also, at times, a lot of bad and ugly that takes place. We find ourselves as reactionaries more than responders of love. Christ, the Good Shepherd, comes to the place where we have been and have isolated in our own lives, to love and comfort, to seek out what has been lost and can now be found, just as he did with the shepherds. As we celebrate this Good Shepherd Sunday we gather mindful of the heavy burden of hurt and pain in our lives, our community, our city, and certainly our world. We’re not called to fix and solve. On this Good Shepherd Sunday we are called to reconcile as the Great Reconciler did and continues to do in our lives and world. It doesn’t matter how it happens for this mystery of healing and reconciling is within and yet beyond each of us. We are called to manifest God’s love to our community, city, and world, by being the wounded healers, reconcilers, and forgivers, for it is that that we witness to by our very lives in trusting the Good Shepherd, leading the ewes with care, devotion, and great love.