Homily for 4th Sunday of Easter April 17, 2016
The readings today are interesting and kind of mixed in themes. They deal with life after death, the Jews and their relationship to God and the beginning of the Apostles’ ministry in the persons of Paul and Barnabas to the Greeks and Gentile world. For centuries, the Jews considered themselves unique as the worshiped only one God, Yahweh, and were the chosen people following the prophets sent to guide them. But even in their tradition, we see that the messiah was not only to be there for the Jews, but also as Isaiah said he would be a light for the Gentiles. When Jesus came, he was rejected by the rulers and leaders of the Jewish people, and as such was subsequently seen as a scandal to them. So when Paul and Barnabas were rejected by the Jews in Antioch, they turned their ministry to the Greeks and so began the opening up of the faith to all humanity.
The second reading from Revelations, is a picture of judgment where not only the 12 tribes of Israel will be, but also “a great multitude”. After all the time and turmoil of the beginning of the church through the first century until the writings of Revelations made it clear that Christ had come for all humanity and intended his words to reach to all the ends of the earth.
Finally today, is the simple passage of the Good Shepherd. It is not the long version but the reminder that Jesus is the good shepherd who puts his life on the line for his sheep. In our world today, it is hard to understand the ways of life in the Mediterranean country in the time of Jesus. Fishermen, shepherds, village life, and in many ways tribal life. Sheep were a valued commodity and important to the ebb and flow of life itself. Caring for them was primary and the shepherd would take great lengths to protect and care for his flock. His knowledge of them and their response to him would be very clear. Thus Jesus as the Good Shepherd means he stands as protector and provider of his flock. Jesus spoke in stories and language and values familiar to his listeners. His sayings and meanings were meant to be seen and heard and understood in light of the here and now, what we see and hear. God was a mystery, yes, but his love and understanding and forgiveness was able to be seen and grasped if only we open our hearts and minds to it. The scandal of the cross was in actuality his giving his life so that all might live. It is a simple but clear message, his resurrection and subsequent presence in his church through out the centuries leaves open the way for us. He calls us and leads us by name.