of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford

Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year A)

This Sunday is traditionally called ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’, because of the Gospel references to Jesus as the Good Shepherd. It is also the day of prayer for Vocations to the Priesthood. On this Sunday we hear one of the great ‘I am’ statements of Jesus from Saint John’s Gospel today ‘I am the gate of the sheepfold’. Through Jesus we enter into life and safety, and we ‘go through Jesus, the gate’ by baptism. This image is implied in all today’s readings: the people listening to Peter find this gateway and enter through it: Peter writes to remind us that we have come back to the Good Shepherd, who heals us by his wounds.

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Acts of the Apostles 2:14.36-41
This is the conclusion of Peter’s speech last Sunday. To understand the reaction of the crowd today it would be good to read the whole account in Acts 2:14-36. The concluding line of Peter’s speech is important because the two titles ‘Lord’ and ‘Christ’, which we rather take for granted, were very dramatic words to use about a man who had been crucified 50 days previously. Perhaps you could slow down to emphasise them in reading. Don’t lose the clarity in the second paragraph - be careful with the sentence ‘The promise that was made, /pause/ is for you, and your children, and for all those…’ Read the final line very deliberately: it is still marvellous that so many people turned to the way of Jesus so suddenly: say ‘three thousand’ almost with a sense of awe,
Second Reading: 1 Peter 2:20-25
We hear a lot of Saint Peter in Easter - but what wonderful things he has to say! Today is a poetic passage on the meaning of the Passion perhaps you could compare it with the ‘Songs of the Suffering Servant’ in Isaiah (look at the daily readings for Holy Week and the First Reading on Good Friday). The first sentence is like a proverb: it jumps in rather abruptly, so leave a good pause after announcing the reading, and emphasise the words ‘bearing punishment patiently’ so that the meaning is understood, The rest of the reading goes on to explain why we should live like this: “[You should bear suffering patiently] because Christ suffered for you”. Mentally underline the phrase ‘He was bearing our faults…’ The last line is very much a ‘here and now’ phrase: ‘You (= the baptised congregation) had gone you (the congregation) have come back (by baptism and its renewal).’
Christ the Good Shepherd from the Catacombs of Saints Peter and Marcellinus (Third Century)

From the Catechism

Christ the Shepherd and Gate
CCC 754, 764, 2665

Pope and bishops as shepherds
CCC 553, 857, 861, 881, 896, 1558, 1561, 1568, 1574

Priests as shepherds
CCC 874, 1120, 1465, 1536, 1548-1551, 1564, 2179, 2686

Conversion, faith, and baptism
CCC 14, 189, 1064, 1226, 1236, 1253-1255, 1427-1429

Christ an example in bearing wrongs
CCC 618, 2447

CCC 1548 - 1551
In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth. This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis: "It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person his minister truly represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is truly made like to the high priest and possesses the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself (virtute ac persona ipsius Christi)." Christ is the source of all priesthood: the priest of the old law was a figure of Christ, and the priest of the new law acts in the person of Christ. Through the ordained ministry, especially that of bishops and priests, the presence of Christ as head of the Church is made visible in the midst of the community of believers. In the beautiful expression of St. Ignatius of Antioch, the bishop is typos tou Patros: he is like the living image of God the Father. This presence of Christ in the minister is not to be understood as if the latter were preserved from all human weaknesses, the spirit of domination, error, even sin. The power of the Holy Spirit does not guarantee all acts of ministers in the same way. While this guarantee extends to the sacraments, so that even the minister's sin cannot impede the fruit of grace, in many other acts the minister leaves human traces that are not always signs of fidelity to the Gospel and consequently can harm the apostolic fruitfulness of the Church. This priesthood is ministerial. "That office . . . which the Lord committed to the pastors of his people, is in the strict sense of the term a service." It is entirely related to Christ and to men. It depends entirely on Christ and on his unique priesthood; it has been instituted for the good of men and the communion of the Church. The sacrament of Holy Orders communicates a "sacred power" which is none other than that of Christ. The exercise of this authority must therefore be measured against the model of Christ, who by love made himself the least and the servant of all. "The Lord said clearly that concern for his flock was proof of love for him."

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