Sunday, April 17, 2016


During today's Gospel Reading, we heard Our Lord Jesus say, "My sheep hear My voice and follow Me." [Jn. 10:27] In this particular passage of Chapter 10 of the Gospel of John, Jesus was speaking of His Divine title as the Good Shepherd. Earlier in the same Chapter, Jesus had said, "I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." [Jn. 10:11]

The question that comes to mind is, "Who are the sheep of Jesus?" In the same Chapter, Jesus said, "I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd." [Jn. 10:16]

Many Christians take Jesus' reference of "other sheep that do not belong to this fold" as meaning that all Churches are equal. They imply that the sheep that do not belong to this fold are our separated brothers and sisters in Christ. It is obvious that this is a misrepresentation of the Words of Jesus. On this subject, I quote from "The Jerome Biblical Commentary,"
"I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold: The Gentiles, too, must be brought into salvation together with the sheep of the fold of Israel (cf. Mt. 15:24; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:11-22). The way to eternal life is the same for both - that they hear in Jesus the voice of God and respond with faith. Then there will be one sheep- herd, one shepherd. This attempts to capture the alliteration of the Gk phrase, mia poimne heis poimen. The Vg has "one fold, one shepherd," but the Greek clearly means "flock." To read "flock" rather than "fold," however, is not to lessen the fact that the text supposes a single Jewish-Gentile Church under the one Shepherd Christ: "There is nothing to suggest that John thought of one flock lodged in a number of different folds" (Barrett). [The Jerome Biblical Commentary; The Gospel According To John, Page 445; Number 16.]
In His own Words, Jesus affirmed, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." [Mt. 15:24] During today's First Reading from "The Acts of the Apostles," we heard that some of the people from the house of Israel were rejecting the grace of God.

Consequently, Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, 'I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'" When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the word of the Lord; and as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers." [Acts 13:46-8]

As the letter of Paul to the Galatians reveals to us, "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise." [Gal. 3:28-9; Col. 3:11]

Therefore, to summarize what has been said until now, there is only one Shepherd for all. There is one fold, one flock, to which all the sheep belong. There is only one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church through which is found the fullness of grace for the salvation of all. Those who seek out the Spirit of Truth with a sincerity of heart, they hear the voice of Jesus and they follow Him accordingly.

On the subject of Paul turning to the Gentiles to preach the salvation of God through Jesus Christ, it is important to keep in mind that Paul, who himself was a member of the Jewish community, had spent much time preaching the Good News to his own people. [Acts 14:1; 16:13; 17:1, 10, 17; 18:4, 6, 19; 19:8; 28:28] Unfortunately, many of them were not open to the grace of God and rejected the truth. The Jewish nation's rejection of Christ as the Messiah is not to be lamented. For it is through their rejection that salvation came upon us as Gentiles. When the Jewish nation rejected Christ as the Messiah, over and above opening the door to our salvation, they consequently placed themselves on an equal basis with us as Gentiles. By the grace of our Lord, those of us who have answered our call to be saved, we became one spiritual nation of God, without discrimination of nationality, race, culture, gender or age.

When Paul informed the Jewish people that he was turning to the Gentiles, he quoted from the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. "I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth." [Acts 13:47; Is. 49:6]

In this particular case, the word "light" had a double meaning. There is no question that Jesus is the true Light of the world. [Jn. 8:12] At the same time, while Jesus is the Light of the world, Paul was the fruit of the seed that Jesus planted beforehand as the Light of the world. Consequently, the light of Christ was shining through Paul. As a child of God, Paul "Let his light shine before others, so that they may see his good works and give glory to our Father in Heaven" [Jn. 5:16] Through Christ, Paul himself became a light of the world." [Mt. 5:14]

To provide you with an example, let us suppose that someone took a burning branch from a brilliant campfire and carried it over to another location where dry wood had been pilled up. Before long, there was a second campfire burning. While the light of the second campfire may have become as brilliant as the light of the first one, it must be remembered that the origin of the light was from the first campfire. The second one could not have been lit without the fire from the first campfire.

In the same way, Jesus, as the first Light of the world, is the Divine Source of all lights that have shined in the past, those that shine today and those that shall shine tomorrow.

During today's Second Reading from the Book of Revelation, we heard of those "who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." [Rev. 7:14] Some have interpreted the white robes to mean those who have been martyred. But this is not the case.

When reviewing the Book of Revelation in its entirety, we learn that the white garments represent all the Christians who have been chosen by God. [Rev. 3:5, 6:11, 7:9, 7:13, 19:8] In other words, those who wear the white garments, they are the living saints who form the fullness of the mystical Body of Christ.

From the vision of John that we have heard today, no matter how much suffering it may refer to, it is important for us to understand that it ends with a promise.

There will come a time when we will no longer hunger or thirst. [Rev. 7:16; Is. 49:10; Jn. 6:35, 7:37] The sun will no longer strike us, nor any of its scorching heat. [Rev. 7:16; Ps. 121:6] The Lamb shall be our Shepherd [Rev. 7:17; Ps. 23:1-17; Is. 40:11; Ez. 34:11-6] and He will guide us [Rev. 7:17; Jn. 10:11-6; Ex. 15:13; Deut. 1:33; Wis. 9:11] to the springs of the water of life. [Rev. 7:17; Jn. 4:14; Jer. 2;13] And God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. [Rev. 7:17, 21:4; Is. 25:8]

When that day shall come upon each and every one of us, we shall remember the fulfillment of the prophecy that we have heard today. We shall remember that our salvation came through the Lamb of God. And at that time, we shall perceive the fulness of the mystery as to exactly when and how we first heard the voice of the Good Shepherd and followed it.

May the grace of the Lord be with you all this week as you continue to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.

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