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Scripture Study: Fourth Sunday of Easter

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By Marc Massery (Apr 20, 2018)
Find the readings for this weekend here.

Sunday, April 22 — Fourth Sunday of Easter
Acts 4:8-12
• Ps 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29
• 1 Jn 3:1-2
• Jn 10:11-18


Nobody I know likes to suffer. That should go without saying. But no matter what we do in this life, no matter how holy or how wicked we become, we all will suffer. If we lay down our lives for Christ, though, as the Lord did for us, He will make our suffering far sweeter and far more bearable than any other fate we otherwise might have had.

In the Gospel reading this weekend, Jesus compares His role in our salvation to a faithful shepherd who keeps watch over his beloved flock. A good shepherd was born into his role, and sent out to tend his flock as soon as he was of age. Since he had a sincere love for his sheep, he would not think twice about placing his life in danger to save them. Jesus says, "This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again" (Jn 10: 17-18).

Just as a shepherd would not regret putting his own life in danger to protect his beloved sheep, Christ does not take account of the suffering and death that our redemption costs Him, because He loves us. Furthermore, Christ always sees suffering in the context of the future glory it will yield, keeping in mind that He has placed His trust in the most loving Father.

God desires our redemption, not because we deserve it, but because He loves us as His own children. We are His beloved flock, whether we realize it or not. In the second reading, John says, "See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are" (1 Jn 3:1). Here John points out that we are not merely called the children of God. Through His grace, we have become His true children. Unlike a hired shepherd whose connection to his sheep is superficial, God has a deep connection to us, because He loves us and wants us to love Him.

Many of us Christians call ourselves children of God. We say that we know God loves us, but we often act as if He didn't. Merely believing in the existence of God falls far too short. Unless we truly understand Him as our loving Father and find joy in living our lives as His beloved children, we will miss out on the amazing plans He has in mind for us.

When we do not live with trust in God as our loving Father, we become wracked with anxiety. We worry how we will make ends meet, if we'll ever have a happy relationship, or if God will keep our family safe. The Lord knows all of our worldly concerns and will always give us what we need. But sometimes we have the tendency to place our cares ahead of our love for God. Then when something goes wrong, when suffering comes to us, we fret and even fall into despair. We may go so far as to want to rebel or run away like the superficial shepherd who was not willing to lay down his life, all because we have placed our hope in something besides God.

When we willingly lay down our lives for God and for the sake of the Gospel, we may lose much, but we gain far more in return. When we trust in God, we no longer have to worry when suffering comes to us. We can know that God always has our best interest in mind, even when all hope seems lost.

The Psalm at Mass this weekend says, "Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes" (Ps 118:1, 8-9). No amount of money, no romantic relationship, no amount of good health will protect us when trials come our way.

Before anything worse should come to us, we should lay down our lives at the feet of the Good Shepherd. Because only through trust in His loving protection will we have the strength to persevere through any trial.

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