Sunday, April 22, is the Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year B). Mass Readings: Acts 4:8-12; Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18.
Do you know what “Jesus” means? It literally means “God saves.” Every time we say the name of Jesus, we are invited to faith in the salvation that comes to us from our God in Jesus Christ. In today’s first reading, we see one aspect of the saving power of Christ.
When the apostles were able to heal the crippled man in the power of Jesus’ name, they were put on trial by the religious authorities who thought that Jesus’ death would end his work. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter was able to attest that all salvation comes from Jesus in whose name the man was made whole.
One meaning of salvation is our healing. Think of how many ways you long to be healed in body and soul; in work and relationships; in memories of the past, struggles of the present, and fears for the future.
The salvation we long for is ours in the name and by the grace of Jesus Christ. Both the first reading and the Responsorial Psalm refer to Christ as the “stone rejected by the builders that has become the cornerstone.” God wants to heal and save all (see 1 Timothy 2:4), but we have the choice to accept or reject the gift of salvation that comes to us in Christ.
An essential element of this saving grace is coming to know our true identity as the beloved children of God. In the second reading, our deepest and truest identity is affirmed: “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are” (1 John 3:2).
This truth is, in itself, capable of healing much of our self-doubt and insecurity. So much of our fearfulness flows from our lack of belief that we are lovable and loved. If we come to know ourselves as children of the heavenly Father, beloved because he is good, cherished because he is full of mercy, then we will experience the freedom and the peace that we were made to enjoy.
The saving power of Christ is also reflected in Jesus’ self-revelation in today’s Gospel as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. God did not leave us hopelessly lost after we distanced ourselves from him at the beginning of time, nor does he do so now. By taking on human nature, the Son of God came to us to shepherd us, to lead us back to our true home and to the embrace of our loving Father. By freely choosing to lay down his life and to take it up again, Jesus’ radical and total acceptance of the Father’s will unleashed a love more powerful than all of our rejection.
The more we ponder and call upon the name of Jesus Christ, remembering that his very name assures us that God saves, the more our faith can grow. No matter what the darkness or pain we feel we need to be saved from, let us call upon Jesus, knowing that he is a Good Shepherd who seeks us, finds us and restores us to our true home in the Father’s heart.
Dominican Sister Mary Madeline Todd is a member of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation in Nashville, Tennessee.
She is assistant professor of theology at Aquinas College in Nashville and also serves through retreats, public speaking and writing.