Reflections on the Readings
April 26, 2015 - Year B
Fourth Sunday of Easter
The Great and Good Shepherd
I am the good shepherd. (John 10:11)
In the Old Testament, the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms speak of God as the shepherd of Israel. The familiar love and comfort of God is expressed in the Twenty-third Psalm:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want;
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul…Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
On the night Jesus was born, shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks by night. In case a wolf has lamb chops on his mind, it's vital that the shepherd keeps vigil with a watchful eye and staff in hand. It's looks idyllic on Christmas cards, but it's not an easy job and requires courage.
Remember David and Goliath? David offered his services to confront Goliath. However, Saul protested, reminding David the youth, that Goliath had been a warrior from his youth. But David replied, "Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and smote him and delivered it out of his mouth; and if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him and killed him. Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God." (1 Samuel 17:33-37)
Without the shepherd, sheep are vulnerable to vicious attacks. Like sheep, we too have an enemy. The devil, like a roaring lion, prowls about us seeking whom he may devour. But we have a Shepherd. He came to destroy Satan's plans and to protect us from his lies and tricks and to rescue the fallen and stricken of Satan. Unafraid, Jesus entered into the battle for our salvation and gave his life for us. And for us he arose from the grave and forever lives to lead his flock to new life.
About a hundred years ago, on April 24, 1915, nationalist Young Turks began their systematic killing of the ancient Christian nation of Armenia. Leaders, bishops,and priests, were rounded up and killed. Death marches of men, women, and children, became a horrific trail of tears. From 1941 to 1945, between five and six million of our Jewish brothers and sisters were killed, out of a population of nine million living in Europe. In 1939 Hitler noted how easy it is to get away with mass murder when he said, "Who, after all, today speaks about the extermination of the Armenians?" Today, Middle Eastern Christians are being exterminated. Almost daily reports of the beheading of our Christian brothers and sisters fill the news coming from that part of the world.
One might ask, "Why? Why don't we just give up and give in and bow to another? Why lose our heads, our homes, our sons, and our daughters, to evil regimes, and just go along to get along?" Because, my friend, as Jesus said, "My sheep know my voice, and another, they will not follow." The immeasurable blood of the martyrs is a testimony to the Friendship of Jesus, the Great and Good Shepherd. For deep in our heart we know that there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at: www.dennishankins.com