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Fourth Sunday of Easter (A)

My dear encountered couples:

Today Jesus again identified himself as a shepherd. The shepherd was the individual who spent most of his life with his sheep. It was his responsibility to protect and lead the sheep. The shepherd made sure the sheep had sufficient water to drink and grass to eat. He also protected the sheep from wolves and other predators.

The shepherd’s life was one of constant movement. After the sheep ate all the grass in one pasture, the shepherd moved them to another green pasture. The shepherd’s life also was a lonely life. For weeks, the shepherd’s only companions were his sheep. Since his sheep were his closest companions and friends, most likely the shepherd came to know his sheep well. He knew which sheep were docile and he also recognized the unruly and stubborn sheep. The shepherd was committed to caring for each of the sheep, even the aggravating ones.

Usually the shepherd had a very strong bond with his sheep. He not only was responsible for them; he truly cared about his sheep and perhaps even came to love them. In some ways, the sheep became the shepherd’s family. They were his constant companions. The sheep only would follow the voice of their shepherd. They would not follow another person. The bond between the shepherd and the sheep was very strong and real.

Jesus is our shepherd. Jesus sticks with us no matter what. He is committed to caring for us and leading us. Jesus comes and finds us when we are lost and afraid. Jesus will keep looking for us until he finds us. Do we have the same strong bond with Jesus as the sheep have with their shepherd? Do we recognize Jesus’ voice when he calls us? Do we listen for his voice? Do we trust that Jesus will protect us at all costs?

In a world spiraling with the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us feel unsettled at best. Too many have lost any sense of security; fewer but still many too many have lost loved ones.

I wonder whether you immediately thought of our Covid-19 heroes who are putting themselves (as “shepherds”) in harm’s way to do what is good for others (the “sheep”) – and whether you, too, said a little prayer that they realize that their suffering is a grace before God. I wonder if you, too, thought that the ‘suffering’ that some of us are experiencing because of the need to remain distant from others is also a grace before God (and such a minor sacrifice!).

It brought me great peace to be reminded of the Easter promise in this passage from the second reading: “Beloved: If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.” (1 Pt 2:20b-22). that if we experience any suffering at all in doing what is good, we have been called to do so because Christ gave us the example of his sacrifice for each of us.

Today may we take time to thank Jesus for loving us so deeply. May we also thank Jesus for his tender care and protection. Jesus is our shepherd. We can depend on him and one another always!

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