Post-Easter Readings have a special freshness and power conveyed by the Holy Spirit. No matter what their perception of Christ earlier, the apostles now are fully convinced that He is the True God. Maybe they had looked at Him merely as a provider of material goods, be it bread or physical cures; they had failed to see Him as the spiritual provider – the Way, the Truth and the Life. By now they – and we too – know better.

The First Reading (Acts 4: 8-12) builds on what we read last Sunday. Peter, in treating a lame man, attributed the cure to the power of Jesus. Peter and John were still speaking in the Temple when some priests, the officer in charge of the temple guards, and some Sadducees got them arrested and jailed. When questioned by the Sanhedrin, Peter charged his countrymen with killing Jesus, whom God then raised from death. That the dead will one day rise to life was anathema to the Sadducees.

Peter went on to relate the present happenings to the Scriptures: ‘The stone that you the builders despised turned out to be the most important of all,’ said Psalm 117. He reiterated that salvation is to be found through Jesus alone; in all the world there is no one else who can save us. This was surely more than the self-righteous authorities could bear to hear. Understandably, those words also refer to God’s infinite love and to how ‘it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in men.’

This is clearly a reminder that we have to repurpose our life in the light of what Peter has said. In the Second Reading (1 Jn 3: 1-2), his co-apostle John calls upon us to consider ‘what love the Father has given us’. Had He not loved us with a fatherly love, would He have sent us His Son Jesus? By the Incarnation and the Supreme Sacrifice on Calvary He showed us that He loved as His very own. Hence, we ought to be faithful. The fruits of our faithfulness may not be visible today, but ‘when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.’

The practical implication is that in every circumstance of our life we must turn our eyes heavenward for an answer. God works in and through us. Whereas the spirit of the world will always be antithetical to the spirit of God, it is of the essence that we keep the faith. When the Son of God returns, everything will become clear as day. The veil covering our immediate reality will be removed and we shall appreciate our glory as children of God. The once frolicking children of the world will then appear as children of darkness.

In fact, for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, this is not rocket science. In a world teeming with life coaches and leaders of all kinds, all of them promising the moon but failing to deliver, today’s Gospel text (Jn 10: 11-18) calls to mind a most tender image of a caring God who promises absolute love and care and delivers it. To put it in context, Jesus had just cured a man blind from birth. When the temple authorities found him acknowledging the Son of Man, they summarily expelled him from the synagogue. It prompted Jesus to deplore the sin of spiritual blindness – the refusal to acknowledge God. And to give the man solace, Jesus presented Himself as the Good Shepherd. The Fourth Sunday of Easter is therefore called ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’.

By this, Jesus evoked a scene that every Jew was familiar with: the self-sacrificing nature of a shepherd worth his salt. A good shepherd defends his flock against enemies, keeps watch over them and shuts himself up with them at nightfall. At dawn, he counts their number and leads them safely to fresh pastures. While he is with them, he now and again utters a shrill call; recognising his voice, the scattered sheep huddle around him. For sure, a stranger’s voice enticing them will not receive the same response, for the flock recognise him not.

Such is the case of every authentic shepherd and his flock. In a broad sense, the shepherd could be a parent, teacher, elder, counsellor; the sheep would be the children, students, youngsters, and those in need of counsel. Above all, it is the image of the church. The Pope is recognisably Jesus’ supreme representative on earth; he is the shepherd, we the flock. As much as the Pope is obliged to be a good shepherd, we are called to be good sheep. Jesus was also concerned about ‘other sheep that are not of this fold’; in His words, ‘I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice, so there shall be one flock, one shepherd.’ The Pope has to do likewise. Together, we can build the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ. This is a mission in which the sheep must help their shepherd.

On the other hand, he who is only a hireling and not a shepherd will leave the sheep to the wolves and flee, for he cares not for the sheep. What, then, are we to do as sheep? We must be wary of false shepherds. And if by some misfortune the shepherd becomes a wolf, we the flock must defend ourselves.[1] As a community, we must shed our inhibitions, our goody-goody image. Aren’t we taught elsewhere in the Bible to ‘be shrewd as a serpent, yet innocent as a dove’ (Mt 10: 16)? So, both shepherd and sheep must stand up, speak up. We are called to be ever faithful, never mute.