Catholic homily outline for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B – The good shepherd

Good shepherdCentral idea: Christ is the good shepherd. Doctrine: Responsibilities of a good shepherd. Practical application: Supporting one’s bishop.

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the 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.)

To view Lectionary 50, click here.

Central idea: Christ is the good shepherd.

Reading 1 Acts 4:8-12

Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said:
“Leaders of the people and elders:
If we are being examined today
about a good deed done to a cripple,
namely, by what means he was saved,
then all of you and all the people of Israel should know
that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean
whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead;
in his name this man stands before you healed.
He is the stone rejected by you, the builders,
which has become the cornerstone.
There is no salvation through anyone else,
nor is there any other name under heaven
given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”

  • Peter makes an extremely bold claim. It is that Jesus Christ is the one and only savior of the world. “There is no salvation through anyone else,” not even Moses.
  • Peter’s proof to the Jewish authorities is the healing of the cripple by the power of Jesus Christ. This proof is hard for those authorities to accept, since they rejected Jesus.
  • A very important virtue every one of us needs—especially those in authority—is humility. A humble person can accept, when given adequate evidence, that he has been wrong about something. A humble person can then adopt the truth, which he now sees. A humble person can also then adapt his behavior to the truth, which he now sees.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29

R. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone or Alleluia.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.

I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
and have been my savior.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD;
we bless you from the house of the LORD.
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
and have been my savior.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his kindness endures forever.

  • In ancient days, princes and kings were the most likely sources of security because of their strength and wealth. We are still tempted to think that safety lies in power and money.
  • But God taught the Chosen People that real security comes from him. God is the savior.
  • We can see Christ our saving Lord in this psalm. He came in the name of the Lord, was rejected by men, especially the men of power, and became “the cornerstone” of salvation for the Chosen People and the whole world.
  • The building of which Christ serves as cornerstone is his Church.

Reading 2 1 Jn 3:1-2

See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.
The reason the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.

  • In today’s Gospel, we get a glimpse of the unity that Christ creates between God and man: The Father and Jesus know each other; Jesus and his disciples know each other; the logical conclusion is that Jesus’ disciples and the Father must also know each other. Indeed, Our Lord told his apostles, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).
  • For a sheep with its needs, it is enough to be a beloved sheep of the good human shepherd. For a human being with our needs, it might be enough to be a beloved subject or servant of Christ our divine master. Yet we are infinitely more: We are, by gift, children of God: we shall even be like God.
  • It is astonishing to us that we are children of God, “yet so we are.” It is astonishing that “the world” does not recognize this. But “the world” does not know us because it did not know Christ.
  • We have to make Christ known, but in the meantime, we have this secret treasure of being in this relationship with God that will unfold later into something even more astonishing.

Gospel Jn 10:11-18

Jesus said:
“I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A hired man, who is not a shepherd
and whose sheep are not his own,
sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away,
and the wolf catches and scatters them.
This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice,
and there will be one flock, one shepherd.
This is why the Father loves me,
because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.
I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.
This command I have received from my Father.”

  • The good shepherd owns the sheep he cares for. His sheep know they belong to him; they recognize his voice; and they follow him. He has true concern for them. When the wolf attacks, he stays with the sheep to defend them, risking his safety to do so. He will even lay down his life to protect them. He is a kind of father to his sheep.
  • Jesus has laid down his life for us because he has true concern for us.
  • He has done so to defend us against every evil: the devil, sin, and death.
  • Christ knows us and we know him.
  • We know God the Father through him.
  • Although those persons who belong to him are found scattered throughout the world and throughout time, we really do form one Church.
  • Christ was able to defend us from every evil, because he had the power to lay down his life and to take it up again.

Doctrine: Responsibilities of a good shepherd

  • While Jesus Christ is the good shepherd, every Christian who exercises any responsibility toward others also has the duty of acting as a good shepherd. For example, every teacher, coach, and supervisor has a duty of care toward the children under them.
  • This duty to be a good shepherd particularly falls on bishops, especially diocesan bishops, who are the pastors or shepherds of the faithful of the dioceses entrusted to them. One’s diocesan bishop has Christ’s power, which he first gave to his apostles, to teach, sanctify, and rule the portion of Christ’s people entrusted to him.
  • The Code of Canon Law spells these episcopal responsibilities. Here are some of them.
    • The bishop’s duty of care is very wide. According to Can. 383 §1, “In exercising his pastoral office, the diocesan Bishop is to be solicitous for all Christ’s faithful entrusted to his care, whatever their age, condition or nationality, whether they live in the territory or are visiting there. He is to show an apostolic spirit also to those who, because of their condition of life, are not sufficiently able to benefit from ordinary pastoral care, and to those who have lapsed from religious practice.” To those who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church, “He is to act with humanity and charity” (383 §3). And he “is to consider the non-baptized as commended to him in the Lord, so that the charity of Christ, of which the Bishop must be a witness to all, may shine also on them” (383 §4).
    • The bishop’s duty to teach is also very wide: According to Can. 386 §1, “The diocesan Bishop is bound to teach and illustrate to the faithful the truths of faith which are to be believed and applied to behavior. He is himself to preach frequently. He is also to ensure that the provisions of the canons on the ministry of the word, especially on the homily and catechetical instruction, are faithfully observed, so that the whole of christian teaching is transmitted to all.”
    • The bishop must also be an example of holiness. According to Can. 387, “Mindful that he is bound to give an example of holiness, charity, humility and simplicity of life, the diocesan Bishop is to seek in every way to promote the holiness of Christ’s faithful according to the special vocation of each.” As part of these responsibilities, the Code also spells out requirements in terms of being present (rather than absent) from his diocese and visiting all of his diocese (rather than staying in one place) (Can. 395 & 396).

Practical application: Supporting one’s bishop

  • Clearly, one’s bishop has immense responsibilities before God. What are ways that we, the sheep, can support our shepherd?
  • Sheep hear the voice of their shepherd. We can pay attention to what our bishop is saying. Our bishop has the duty to preach and teach and it is only right that we listen attentively and intelligently. Indeed, Can. 212 §1 tells us that “Christ’s faithful, conscious of their own responsibility, are bound to show christian obedience to what the sacred Pastors, who represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith and prescribe as rulers of the Church.” The diocesan newspaper and website are often effective ways of keeping up with what one’s bishop is saying.
  • Sheep also respond to the voice of their shepherd, so he knows where they are and how they are doing.
    • We can show appreciation for the good our bishop is doing by telling him personally or in writing.
    • When we need something or see a need not being filled we can let him know that. (Can 212 §2).
    • When we see something in our bishop’s behavior or something seriously amiss which comes under his purview, we can let him know—rather than practice the sin of detraction in complaining to everyone but him. Indeed, we have the right and at times the duty to let our views be known “on matters which concern the good of the Church” (Can 212 §3).
  • Another important way we can support our shepherd is by praying for him. It would be crazy not to pray every day for one’s family: one’s parents, siblings, spouse, and children. In the same way, we should pray each day for our spiritual family, especially our “fathers”: the pope, one’s bishop, and the pastor of one’s parish.
  • Finally, we can support our bishop by join him in whatever works he is advocating. This requires a discernment of how we can apply some of our time, talent, or treasure along those lines.






One response to “Catholic homily outline for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B – The good shepherd”

  1. John Avatar

    Thanks for the Homily

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