The Sheep of the Good Shepherd: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year A)

goodshpsarcophcropWritten as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline for the Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year A), May 11, 2014, (1) provides insights into the Sunday Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

Central idea: The Sheep of the Good Shepherd. Doctrine: The virtue of docility. Practical application: Becoming more docile.

To view the Lectionary 49 readings, click here.

Central Idea: The Sheep of the Good Shepherd

Reading 1 Acts 2:14a, 36-41

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven,
raised his voice, and proclaimed:
“Let the whole house of Israel know for certain
that God has made both Lord and Christ,
this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart,
and they asked Peter and the other apostles,
“What are we to do, my brothers?”
Peter said to them,
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you,
in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins;
and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
For the promise is made to you and to your children
and to all those far off,
whomever the Lord our God will call.”
He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them,
“Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
Those who accepted his message were baptized,
and about three thousand persons were added that day.

  • This is the final part of the basic proclamation (or kerygma) of the Gospel. These Jews and proselytes who are in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost are “cut to the heart” by Peter’s words and ask the correct question: “What are we to do?”
  • Peter answers, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you.” He is saying: You have gone astray. Turn away from your former way of life. That was futile. Embrace this new way of Jesus Christ who is Lord. Turn and find the true “shepherd and guardian of your souls” (1 Pt 2:25). Doing so will mean receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit and having God’s own life in you.
  • About three thousand persons were docile and were baptized.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 23:1-2a, 3b-4, 5, 6

R/  The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want or R/  Alleluia

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side.
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.

You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.

  • If we see Christ or ourselves as the speaker of this psalm, we can read it as God’s promise of care for anyone who suffers unjustly, especially for doing what is right (1 Pt 2:20). For this reason we can suffer patiently.
  • If we look at the psalm from God’s point of view we can see a startling promise. The promise of Psalm 22 is summarized in Christ’s own words when he likened himself to the good shepherd: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” God promises to give us everything we need and want. God promises not just life but abundant life to his sheep.
  • But a sheep of a good shepherd is docile to his master. By the good shepherd, this sheep is given repose, is led to restful waters, receives refreshment of soul, is guided in right paths, is given courage, and so on.

Reading 2 1 Pt 2:20b-25

Beloved:
If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good,
this is a grace before God.
For to this you have been called,
because Christ also suffered for you,
leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.
He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.

When he was insulted, he returned no insult;
when he suffered, he did not threaten;
instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly.
He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross,
so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.
By his wounds you have been healed.
For you had gone astray like sheep,
but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

  • Christ was patient when he suffered for doing what is good and that patient suffering has saved us.
  • Close to Christ our Good Shepherd, we can also be patient when we suffer for doing what is good.
  • But most of all we are in a relationship now like the one between sheep and a good shepherd. We had “gone astray” but have now returned to him who is “the shepherd and guardian of [our] souls.

Gospel Jn 10:1-10

Jesus said:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate
but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.
But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice,
as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
When he has driven out all his own,
he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him,
because they recognize his voice.
But they will not follow a stranger;
they will run away from him,
because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”
Although Jesus used this figure of speech,
the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them.

So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
I am the gate for the sheep.
All who came before me are thieves and robbers,
but the sheep did not listen to them.
I am the gate.
Whoever enters through me will be saved,
and will come in and go out and find pasture.
A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy;
I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

  • In this world, there are basically two types of leaders: those who give and those who take.
    • Christ “came so that [we] might have life and have it more abundantly.” He is the greatest giver.
    • Among those who take are those leaders who are downright thugs who “steal and slaughter and destroy.”
      • The thieves and robbers come not to give life in abundance but to take away from us everything we have.
      • This perfectly describes the devil and applies to any human being who becomes a predator.
  • These two types of leaders are universal, not confined to any religion.
  • Christ is the good shepherd and we are his sheep.

Doctrine: The virtue of docility

  • Sheep are docile. They follow and obey a good shepherd and so benefit from him.
  • Having the virtue of docility means observing, listening to, imitating, and obeying the directions of those who know better than we do. It also means accepting just correction.
  • The docile person is humble. He knows he does not know many things and needs a teacher and guide.
    • The docile person realizes there may be others who know his own good better than he does himself.
      • This is the basic reason why we should listen to teachers, advisers, coaches, guides, and parents.
  • A docile person avoids the vice of credulity. Credulity means stupidly believing what you are told without reflecting on it. The credulous sheep listens to anyone who claims to be a shepherd.
    • The properly docile sheep is prudent enough to run away from a bad shepherd, afraid of how he might harm him.
  • A docile person also avoids being a know-it-all. A sheep who “knows everything” and so cannot be led or taught is foolish, because in reality he does not know it all but has cut himself off from help.
    • A docile person maintains a legitimate doubt about his own biases.
    • He is also right to question new ideas which conflict with his fundamental values, especially when those new ideas appear to conflict with Christian values.

Practical Application: Becoming more docile

  • We should be docile to our good shepherds, especially the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Here are some ways to grow in docility:
    • Realize I am ignorant of many things.
    • Be open to learning new things from others.
    • Submit to my legitimate teachers.
    • Listen to advice and accept correction.
    • Be humble and imitate those who can do what I wish to learn.
    • Overcome laziness through hard work.
    • Maintain a legitimate doubt both about my own biases and toward ideas that conflict with my fundamental Catholic values.

 

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