One of the many dynamics of the readings of this 4th Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, is: what is our part in the Shepherd’s mission? I think we tend to overlook this aspect because of the richness of the readings on Christ being the Good Shepherd and the love He has for all of us. But as we see in the first reading, Peter is being questioned by authorities for his healing the cripple. Peter, of course, answers, not with what he did, but who really did it – Christ. But still it was Peter who was the conduit of Christ’s graces – Peter was the proxy, so to speak, for the Good Shepherd. It was Peter who continues the actions of the Good Shepherd on earth, as do all the apostles. But, even with such miraculous achievements those in society still didn’t understand. And what does all of this mean to us?
The entrance antiphon for today’s mass proclaims: ‘The merciful love of the Lord fills the earth; by the word of the Lord the heavens were made, alleluia.’ But, in reflecting on this antiphon, at least for me, a question arises; where do people find this merciful love? Where does God’s love manifest itself?
I understand that mankind can come to know the presence of God through creation – St. Paul tells us as much; but only come to know, not understand, or participate – just be aware. And truth be told, I am not sure mankind still has the capacity to admit this; to acknowledge the presence of God through creation. We have become very, very good at denying that we are not the supreme event, the top beings in creation. Our scientific capabilities and our desire for unaccountability has blinded society from the transcendent truth, indeed we have gotten very good at convincing ourselves there isn’t such a thing.
But in spite of society’s love affair with itself, there is still, deep within most, a hunger for the truth. There is still an ember of desire for finding the peace that comes with being whole – not sated but whole. There is still an emptiness that needs to be filled.
So I ask again: Where do people find this merciful love? And of course, the answer is all around us – Christ, through us. Within His mystical body Christ spreads this merciful love. Within His faithful the path to wholeness is found. By our tender witness of God’s graces the lost sheep are led to the protection of their shepherd’s embrace. By embracing those we meet we all find the peace of belonging – the joy of coming home. Or as today’s Collect so beautifully put it: “we are led to a share in the joys of heaven.”