‘Good Shepherd Sunday’ Reminds Us That Christ Is Our Salvation

User’s Guide to Sunday, April 25

Philippe de Champaigne [1602-1674], “The Good Shepherd”
Philippe de Champaigne [1602-1674], “The Good Shepherd” (photo: Public domain)

Sunday, April 25, is the Fourth Sunday of Easter.

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.

The Fourth Sunday of Easter marks the midpoint of the 50 Easter season and constitutes a kind of unofficial feast we might call “Good Shepherd Sunday.” Every year on this day we read from John 10, the famous “Good Shepherd discourse.” On this Sunday we stop reading Gospels about the post-Resurrection appearances of Our Lord, and beginning next week we start meditating on Jesus’ teaching on the Holy Spirit (John 14-17). In other words, this day marks a shift from remembering Easter to looking forward to Pentecost. 

In Easter, the first reading is always from Acts. This Sunday we hear an excerpt from Peter’s defense speech from his trial before the Jewish senate (called the Sanhedrin) for healing a man unable to walk (see Acts 3:1-9). Peter boldly proclaims that what healed the man was the “name of Jesus Christ,” and there is “no other name given to the human race” that can save us. It may be politically correct in the modern day to claim all world religions are equally good, just different roads to the same goal, but Christian faith can never be content with such a false ecumenism. Jesus is not just another founder of a world religion: He is the Son of God — God himself, our savior. No other founder of a world religion claimed to be God, to have died for our sins, and to have the power to raise us from the dead. He alone teaches that the Creator God wants to be our Father and offers us a way to become his children by trusting and following his Son. 

Our Responsorial is Psalm 118. This is the last of a collection of Psalms (Psalms 113-118) that Jews called “Egyptian Hallel” (Hallel means “praise” in Hebrew) and chanted during the Passover liturgy. Jesus would have chanted these words just before he left the Upper Room to begin his passion. We focus on one line from the Psalm: “The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.” Despite being rejected and executed by the civil and religious leaders, Jesus has become the foundation of a new temple for the whole human race, a temple composed of “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5) of each baptized Christian. 

This year we are reading through 1 John in the Sunday lectionary for Easter. In today’s selection (1 John 3:1-2), the apostle John exclaims, “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God — yet so we are!” We’ve become so used to the idea of being God’s children that we’ve lost the sense of how radical Jesus’ teaching is in the context of world history and religions. Muhammed denied that we are children of Allah and in fact considered it blasphemy to claim to be such. Buddha didn’t even teach there was a God — he was agnostic. 

Jesus alone of major world religious founders or philosophers teaches that God the Creator wants to be our Father and offers us a way to become his children. Let us not take this for granted!

In our Gospel (John 10:11-18), Jesus makes the claim: “I am the Good Shepherd: A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Here, Jesus draws on important prophetic texts that speak of God as the shepherd of his people, especially Psalm 23 and Ezekiel 34. 

By calling himself the “Good Shepherd,” Jesus expresses that he is God himself, who gives up his life to save us. 

Neither Buddha, nor Muhammed, nor Guru Nanak, Plato, Confucius, or anyone else, ever died for the forgiveness of our sins or even claimed to. Let us embrace Jesus as our Shepherd and our God, our only way to salvation!