April 13, 2008 Year A
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Reflection on the Readings
By Dennis Hankins
Theme: The Shepherd and Guardian of our Soul
…I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
To say, "The Lord is my shepherd is to mean my soul is under divine care.
Without the divine care of Jesus the Shepherd we are as sheep without a shepherd. The call and message of today's readings invite us to return to the Shepherd of our souls. We are to cast our cares upon him because he cares for us. So, if we are to come to the reality of our true self, then the restoration of our soul must come from Him whose image we bear.
It is this image, which all humankind bears, which calls for the understanding of the dignity of every soul. If my neighbor is a soul like I am a soul, then loving my neighbor as myself is the pathway to true fraternity among the nations. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI on the eve of his journey to the United States of America calls this the "law written on the human heart." The full import of what this means is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1960: The precepts of natural law are not perceived by everyone clearly and immediately. In the present situation sinful man needs grace and revelation so moral and religious truths may be known "by everyone with facility, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error." The natural law provides revealed law and grace with a foundation prepared by God in accordance with the work of the Spirit.
In the community of the Church we discover the richness of the Father's inestimable love for all flesh. Through our baptism, we partake of the divine nature. As participants in the divine fellowship our soul is awakened to the loving care and guardianship of our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep. (Hebrews 13:20) It is divine life in abundance that Jesus brings to our soul. Never are possessions an indication of our divine connection. Such an understanding only makes grace sound cheap and worldly. It is not the gold and silver of this world which gives meaning to our soul. It is the blood of the Lamb that teaches us the worth of every soul. The healing of the soul is in the precious blood of Christ. And through that same sacrifice does our soul find refuge from him who roams about seeking the ruin of souls.
The care and guardianship of our soul is under the constant vigilance of Him who said I'll never leave you nor forsake you. David the sweet singer of Israel described Him as the Lord, who is our shepherd. And in the Gospel today Jesus says of himself, "I am the Good Shepherd."
He who is the true lover of souls will neither slumber nor sleep. Even in the night our soul is under his divine watchfulness so that should we not rise in the morning light we would at last awake in His likeness. Whether it is day or night, Jesus is the Shepherd and Guardian of our soul.
Let us pray: Dear Jesus, in the depth of divine life may I resemble you in thought, word and deed. You have said it is possible to gain the whole world and lose my soul. Precious Jesus, watch over my soul as a shepherd watches over his sheep. AMEN.