The fourth Sunday of Easter is called "Good Shepherd Sunday" because all three years of the Liturgical cycle offer us readings from Chapter 10 of the gospel of John, where the Good Shepherd is described. When we think of Jesus "the Good Shepherd," we always link this image to his meek and sympathetic behavior towards those who went wrong in life. But the "Good Shepherd" of today's gospel is completely different. For the evangelist John, the shepherd is not one who caresses tenderly the wounded sheep, but the fierce protector, the fighter who, at the risk of his own life, stands up to anybody who threatens his flock. The passage begins with Jesus saying: "The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep" (11). "Good" does not stand here for sentimental, sweet, tender, not hurting anybody. It stands for "the true shepherd," "the authentic one." Jesus is the true shepherd not because he cuddles and caresses his sheep, but because he loves them so much that he is ready to lay down his life for them. Count how many times the expression "lay down his life" is used in the text. To bring out even better the image of the true shepherd, the text goes on to contrast it with the figure of the "hired man," the "mercenary" (12-13). The mercenary is hired for money. A hired man's contract did not demand that he should lay down his life for the sheep. He was allowed to run away, since, after all, he was not concerned with the flock but with the money, his salary. All Christians should be good shepherds. Whoever wants to be a disciple of Christ must portray the generosity of his master. He should not start measuring how far or much he can love his brother or sister. He must be led entirely by love. If a Christian is satisfied with obeying a law, or doing the minimum, he or she has not understood what true love is. If we love our brothers and sisters or serve our communities in the hope of getting some advantage here in the form of gratitude and prestige or even a reward in heaven, we do not really follow Christ's way. The expression "to lay down one's life" is found five times in the text.
Almost every minute of every day we are engaged with our own internal self-talk phrase. This self-talk phrase, for better or worse, interprets the events of our daily lives.
Mental health research has discovered: ×Events alone do not create good or bad emotions = Self-talk of events creates good or bad emotions
We all have negative self-talk statements running through our minds at all times. Our internal monologue is a never-silent stream of self-talk statements, which create either good or bad emotions. The following ten destructive thought patterns are the most common negative self-talk statements:
1.All or Nothing. This destructive self-talk states that something is perceived as all good or all bad: If I don’t get an A in math, it’s the same as failing.
2.Overgeneralization. Making rules and drawing conclusions to apply to every situation: Mary didn’t want to go to the movies; nobody wants to go on a date with me.
3.Ignoring the Positive. Only paying attention to problems and weaknesses: My friends tell me I am a good golfer, but they are only trying to make me feel better.
4.Inferring. Thinking another person has negative motives: The only reason Bobby gave me a hug is because he wants to use my car.
5.Mind Reading. Thinking you know the thoughts and desires of another person: She told me she’s going to visit grandpa but she’s really going to visit grandma.
6.Magnification. The pattern of convincing yourself that it’s the little things that really upset us. It was not an innocent mistake, she refused to look directly at me.
7.Minimization. When you ignore positive things as being insignificant. Well, I got a raise but it’s not even close to what I need.
8.Infallibility. The belief that your feelings represent reality. Ross, nobody thinks Tom insulted you, except you.
9.Labeling. The practice of name-calling with the use of derogatory labels for others. Mary is the absolute biggest klutz; she breaks everything.
10.Fortune Telling. The false understanding that you are capable of predicting the future. It won’t do me any good to talk to Jane, she just doesn't listen.
By recognizing and replacing a negative and destructive self-talk phrase with a positive and constructive self-talk phrase, it can give us the capacity to feel good and act great. Destructive Self-Talk Constructive Self-Talk Something always goes wrong The Spirit is my daily guide I worry about everything The Father is my provider He makes my blood boil Christ empowers me to love I am usually right Jesus Christ is my Lord
In the Gospel of Luke the Easter story tells us how the women discover the empty tomb and receive a message from two angels. However, the apostles refused to believe their story (Lk 24:1-12). Two other disciples also experience Jesus on their way to Emmaus as they listen to him explaining the Scriptures and finally recognize him in the breaking of bread (Lk 24:13-35). After his resurrection, Jesus rarely showed himself to individuals. He usually made himself known to them when his disciples were gathered together as a community. One thing the disciples did when they gathered together after the death of Jesus was to read the Scriptures again and to try to understand the meaning of what had happened to Jesus and how they should go on when Jesus was no longer with them. The disciples on their way to Emmaus discovered Jesus as a stranger who helped them understand the Scriptures and, later on as he broke bread (Lk 24:25-32). It was through the Scriptures and the celebration of the Eucharist that "their eyes were opened" (Lk 24:31). Again in this week's Gospel, Jesus first eats with them and then explains the Scriptures to them. He opens their minds to understand that all that had happened to him was part of God's plan. Through this new understanding of what had happened to Jesus, they begin to understand that he is now present among them in a different way. The disciples experienced Jesus as the one who helped them understand the Scriptures. We too can experience the risen Jesus when we share the Scriptures and celebrate the Sacraments. That is why bible-sharing is at the heart of our Christian communities. When we invite Jesus to open our minds, he is truly present among us.
When we are baptized into the Triune God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we are baptized into the mission of the Trinity in the world (Matt 28:18-20). The mission of the Trinity in our world is most often referred to as Christ’s mission—Christ’s mission of reconciliation. Through our baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ we become full participants in his mission. Through our baptism into Christ’s ongoing mission of reconciliation, our broken relationships with God, others, and the world are in the process of being made whole…reconciled.Through our baptism into the life of Christ and his mission of reconciliation, God promises us that we will be reconciled (united) with the family of the Trinity, the human family, and the world into eternity. To reconcile is to have a relationship free of conflicts, differences, or divisions; one united in harmony. In the New Testament two terms are used to describe our reconciliation with God: adoption and access.
AdoptionThe Father sent his Son on a mission in which the Holy Spirit adopted us into the family of the Trinity. John tells us that we become the adopted children of the Trinity through baptism. Paul tells us that through baptism we have become children of the Father and heirs (inheritors) of God (Gal 4:5). Jesus, who regularly addressed God as Father, invites us to do the same. We are to approach our heavenly Father affectionately, as we would our own earthly father (Abba/Daddy).
Access St. Paul tells us that we have access through our baptism into the fellowship of the Trinity. We have access to the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:17-18), to effect Christ’s mission of reconciliation in our world.Since we have access to the most holy place by the blood of Jesus, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart (Heb 10:19-21). Through Christ’s death on the cross, he has united us with God into a new and reconciled relationship which transcends death and offers eternal life to all in his family. Christ’s gift of reconciliation has both a vertical relationship to God, as well as a horizontal relationship to people. Paul teaches that Christ has removed the barriers that divide us (Eph 2:14). And, the power of his reconciliation extends throughout the Church, society, creation, and even the entire universe (Col 1:15-20). Are you familiar with what the Bible teaches about the Trinity?
The best way for us to listen to God's voice through Bible reading, is to recognize God's two most important themes in the Bible: God's law and God's gospel.God’s law voice is about what God wants us to do, but what we are unable to do. God’s gospel voice is about what God does for us by freely offering us salvation through his appointed Savior. God’s law reveals the sin-filled self-centeredness we inherited from our first parents. Whereas, the transforming power of the gospel speaks to our souls to give us a new relationship with God and others. God's law always demands something from us, while God's gospel always offers us something. The following chart can help us to compare and contrast God's law voice with God's gospel voice in the Bible:
The Gospel for this Sunday tells of two experiences of the risen Christ. The first is to the disciples without Thomas present (20:19-23) and the second to Thomas and the other disciples (20:24-29). The risen Christ came to the disciples amid their fear of the hostility directed toward them and Jesus. He immediately offered them “peace” (20:19). Then, after showing them evidence that he was their crucified Lord, he announced their mission (20:21). They were sent forth with the power of the Holy Spirit and the authority to forgive and retain sins (20:22-23). Thomas found the report of the others unbelievable and so the risen Christ appeared a second time, now in the midst of an experience of doubt. He offered Thomas the evidence he demanded (20:25,27) and urged him to believe. Thomas’ confession is the climax of John’s entire gospel: “My Lord and my God” (20:28). The Gospel closes with the purpose of the entire book of John—that the readers may believe and receive the gift of eternal life. Once again, we are reminded that our faith is not based on “proof,” but on listening to the Word of the Risen One, who speaks to us.
The Easter Sunday Gospel recounts how Mary Magdalene found the tomb empty. When she told the apostles, Peter and the beloved disciple (John) felt a deep desire to see for themselves what had happened. They ran to the tomb and found the cloth in which Jesus had been buried, nicely folded away to indicate that his body has not been robbed. The beloved disciple believed that was a sign that Jesus is truly risen. The “Beloved” disciple’s journey with Jesus is marked by his deep love for his master and friend. It is this love that helped him to recognize that the body of Jesus had not been taken away, but had risen to a totally new life. Every disciple of Jesus is called to relate to him in a similar way. As long as Jesus remains jus an ideal for the disciples there will be the danger to follow him only in thought and theory. Only when Jesus becomes a loved one, will there be a desire to really act as he would have done. Discipleship of Jesus is more a matter of heart than the head; A matter of Faith, more than of thought.
At the heart of the Church’s annual calendar is the death and resurrection of Jesus that we remember throughout Holy Week and Easter. Holy Week is a time to be renewed in our connection to the benefits of the Cross of Christ.
Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday of the Passion when we recall Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, where he will suffer and die for our salvation.
Thursday of Holy Week commemorates Jesus’ institution of Holy Communion, which offers us forgiveness for our sins. Maundy Thursday is the day Jesus instituted Holy Communion and gave a new command (“Maundy” means command) to love one another. Maundy Thursday worship connects the benefits of the Cross to the forgiveness, love, and hope we receive in Holy Communion.
Friday of Holy Week commemorates Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, which offers eternal life. Good Friday worship connects us to the benefit of the cross in revealing God, conquering Satan, and bringing salvation to all people.
Saturday of Holy Week commemorates Jesus’ institution of Holy Baptism which offers us the faith we need to trust Jesus for the gift of eternal life. Easter Vigil/Holy Saturday worship renews us in our connection to the benefits of being baptized and “marked with the cross of Christ forever.”
Easter Sunday commemorates when God raised Jesus from death to offer all the baptized eternal salvation.
Christians around the world make every effort to fully participate in all the worship opportunities of Holy Week and Easter. What else could you possibly do to in such a significant way?
Among the four Gospel accounts, Mark's version of Jesus' death is the most grim. Jesus is a victim. Abandoned by his followers, denied by Peter, condemned by the religious and political authorities, he is mocked by everyone, even those executed with him. Utterly alone, his last words are a cry of abandonment even by God. True to form, the crowd misunderstands even these last words: "Listen, he is calling for Elijah" (15:35). On that note, Jesus dies. There is more to the story, of course. The signs at the moment of death signal other realities. Scattered sentences from the psalms direct the sensitive reader to the Scriptures which provide the backdrop for the story. The words and actions of Pilate and the soldiers are ironic: they say more than they know. Yet the tone cannot be sentimentalized. This is where Jesus' offer of life ends. This is what Pilate and the priests do. There is no other way. The message of Passion Sunday is Jesus' death on a cross. Jesus died because God sent him to die. Jesus died for our sake. Hearing that Jesus died for us to make us right with God, we realize that we do not have to try to have a relationship with God by our own efforts. We become nothing with Jesus in his death so that we can become everything to God through Jesus.