Sunday Scripture reading, May 3, 2020: Turn to the Good Shepherd
Fourth Sunday of Easter
1) Acts 2:14, 36-41
2) 1 Pt 2:20-25
Gospel: Jn 10:1-10
Our eyes and ears have seen and heard what our minds could not fully understand as the world struggles through days, weeks and months of a pandemic. At one time or another, we have all felt a sense of helplessness, fear of the present and anxiety about the future.
At no time in recent memory have we sensed the full weight of our frail human condition as we experience now in these challenging days. And even as we fear the future economic and social consequences of the pandemic, we feel most deeply the painful spiritual consequence of being deprived of the sacraments.
Now more than ever, the word of God calls us to open ourselves to the inner consolation that comes from God alone.
One of the most consoling passages in the Bible is Psalm 23, the responsorial psalm for this Sunday. Some of us may know this psalm by heart, having sung often its words in hymns. Perhaps you even know it from memory.
Return to the comforting and assuring words of Psalm 23 today. Let the prayer of the psalmist, prayed over and over again, become your heartfelt cry to God in these isolating times. And as you pray this psalm, Jesus the Good Shepherd, who is shepherd and guardian of our souls, draws near to calm hearts and assuage fears with the love and mercy of God's word.
To experience the consoling presence of Jesus the Good Shepherd requires faith. It is this faith that Peter and the apostles call forth from the crowds who could not fully understand the meaning of Jesus' death and resurrection.
As he calls them to repentance, Peter invites them to "be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." At baptism, we received the Holy Spirit, comforter and advocate.
The Holy Spirit reveals the meaning of human suffering in the isolation, fear and anxiety of these times. The Holy Spirit turns our eyes to the sufferings of Jesus in whom we find the deepest meaning of human suffering. As the First Letter of Peter reminds us, "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."
In the midst of the disease and death that has invaded the world, Jesus speaks this promise into our hearts, "Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. ... Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture."
As we pray for ourselves and for those who suffer the most during these harsh, unprecedented times, we turn to Jesus our Good Shepherd and pray confidently, "speak to me, Lord."
How do the words of Jesus the Good Shepherd comfort you today?
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Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.