4th Sunday in Paschaltide
25 April 2021
At St Cecilia’s Abbey Ryde
The image of the shepherd brings a note of tenderness to the conversations Our Lord had with the Jews. Since we are in Paschal time we don’t have an Old Testament reading today, but it is important that we have the prophets and the psalms in mind when we meditate on this Gospel text. We turn first to Ezechiel: I myself will search for my sheep as a shepherd seeks his flock… you are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture. The tenderness of the Incarnation is evident here, the tenderness of the Father who so loved the world that he sent his only Son. The Father loves the Son because he lays down his life. The Son shows his love for the Father by receiving and embracing this command of the Father. He lays down his life and takes it again, because he is the Son of God. He is the life. The life of all creation derives from him. Not only is the resurrection his prerogative as Son of God, but it also uniquely fitting for him to be raised by the glory of the Father because death has no claim over the sinless One who is our Leader to life.
The image of the Shepherd also enriches the meditation we were making on the Eucharist in the Gospel readings last week. The Shepherd, in submission to the Father’s will, lays down his life. He does this by his own free choice, not as a burden laid upon him. The Last Supper is the moment when Jesus declares most clearly that he is choosing to surrender himself to the power of his enemies. His choice transforms an execution into the redemptive sacrifice of all humanity, by which all the divisions of mankind are to brought to an end and all are invited into the unity of a single flock.
The voice of the Shepherd is continually calling each one of us. On this day of prayer for vocations to the priesthood, the diaconate and the religious life it is good for us older people, those who have parental responsibility, and for godparents and grandparents to consider how they can help the young to listen to the still small voice of the Lord calling them. There is the long-standing tradition of godparents giving a Bible to their godchild. The young may also need help to find sound and inspiring teaching on the web. An opportunity to become aware of the prompting of the Holy Spirit is provided by a retreat. No Catholic education is complete without a stay in a monastery.
We all need to listen more attentively to the voice of our divine Shepherd. He knows our new name, the name which expresses who we truly are. He calls us on day by day, encouraging us by his word and example. He leads us to the pasture of the holy Scriptures, opening our minds to understand, sending the Holy Spirit so that we may correspond with the graces we receive. He feeds us with his Body and Blood, the food of eternal life. When we walk through the valley of the shadow of death we need fear no evil for he is with us.
The Good Shepherd is truly our Leader to life, our Leader to Salvation. He has laid down his life for his sheep in obedience and submission to the Father. He has given us both teaching and example to follow him, the Way, to salvation. He has set the table of the Eucharist before us. It is here that he invites to worship him in the unity of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father
Dom Gregory Corcoran, Prior of Quarr