LET US LEARN FROM JESUS THE GOOD SHEPHERD
(A biblical reflection on THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER [YEAR B] – 25 April 2021)
Gospel Reading: John 10:11-18
First Reading: Acts 4:8-12; Psalms: Pa 118:1,8-9,21-23,26,28-29; Second Reading: 1John 3:1-2
The Scripture Text
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know My own and My own know Me, as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed My voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from My Father. (John 10:11-18 RSV)
At times we can be quite naïve when it comes to doing good for others. We can easily believe that all we need to do is act in a moral and caring manner and everything will be well. How surprised we are when our good works are rejected; our motives questioned; and instead of gratitude we are taken for granted or ignored. Remember: Good works do not always evoke a good response!
Why does this happen? Some people do not want to believe that one can act in an unselfish manner. There is always a “Trojan Horse” lurking in their minds. Others refuse to accept goodness shown to them because they are not used to being treated with kindness. Being suspicious is their “way of life.” They have been conditioned to be tough and on their guard. Still others do not want to be in the debt of another. There is another reason, one we do not like to consider: Often, the good we do is for our glory. We use the name of God to draw attention to ourselves. Others discover our “not so hidden agenda”. Resentment is the outcome.
Doing good is not simply a matter of helping others. The disciples experienced this (see First Reading). Simon Peter used the name of Jesus to cure a cripple. This caused the Elders to question the good deed and the motive behind it. Envy raises its ugly head. Peter must tell the Elders and the people the uncomfortable truth: true healing and salvation come only through the name of Jesus Christ.
Jesus, whom the Elders rejected, is really the One totally accepted by the Father. The Elders cannot just accept the doing of a good deed. Motives are questioned. Yet Peter does not hesitate in responding: “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a cripple, by what means this man has been healed, be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man is standing before you well. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, but which has become the head of the corner. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:8-12). Only Jesus saves. Our words, good deeds, institutions and achievements will pass away. Only Jesus is capable of redeeming us into everlasting life.
Jesus was not immune from having His message and ministry questioned. Jesus preached the Good News of acceptance to the outcasts, despised and sinners. This was bad news for the self-righteous elite. Jesus came to liberate and not enslave, to lift burdens rather than add them to hearts already wearied by life. His enemies often associated the healing ministry of Jesus with the work of the devil.
Those who preferred their positions of influence to the glory of God sought to discredit Jesus. The greatest act of healing, Jesus’ laying down of His life on the cross, is a real stumbling block and folly to those who refuse to believe. The Good Shepherd who dies for the sheep so that they may live was accused of being mad. Jesus does the good and faithful things even when it costs Him His reputation, social and religious standing, and even His life.
The Christian knows that doing good in the name of Jesus will always engender opposition. The same forces that tried to destroy Jesus are still at work in our time. The “First letter of John” puts it this way: “The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him” (1John 3:1) Such “knowing” or recognition only comes through a living faith in Jesus as the Son of God. Only with such a faith can we “hear His voice.” To the world, the laying down of Jesus’ life was a rejection by God. It was a foolish thing to do. Jesus should have followed the advice of Peter and turned away from Jerusalem (see Matthew 16:22). Not Jesus: “The Father loves Me for this: that I lay down My life to take it up again … This command I received from My Father.” This is Jesus: “The humble and obedient Son of God!”
Each day we are called to do good for others. This means we can expect to be misunderstood and even rejected. Let us remember that Jesus experienced the very same thing. However, this did not prevent Him from being faithful. Let us continue to do good in power of that one glorious name which save – Jesus Christ!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, although we – Your people – walk in the valley of darkness, no evil should we fear; for we follow in faith the call of the Shepherd – Jesus Christ – whom You have sent for our hope and strength. Attune our minds to the sound of His voice, lead our steps in the path He has shown, that we may know the strength of His outstretched arm and enjoy the light of Your presence for ever. Amen.
Jakarta, 24 April 2021
A Christian Pilgrim