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April 21, 2010
Breaking Open the Word
By James Cavanagh
April 25: Fourth Sunday of Easter - Divine Mercy Sunday
•Acts 13:14; 43-52
The Overview: This week’s readings focus on the Lamb who shepherds his people. The Acts of the Apostles shows how the early Church, led by the risen Lord, expanded and grew as the Gospel spread throughout the Roman Empire. Up to now the readings have revolved around St. Peter. Starting this week, however, the readings focus on St. Paul and his mission to the Gentiles. As was his custom, Paul first preached to his fellow Jews in the local synagogue. Some believed him, but many did not and so Paul turned his attention to the Gentiles who “were delighted when they heard” the word of God. Paul didn’t change the message to please his listeners. When they refused to accept his teachings, he turned to a more receptive audience. The true “sheep” hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and receive the Gospel with great joy. The second reading calls our attention to those “who stood before the throne and the Lamb wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.” Having won the victory of eternal life through martyrdom, the faithful ones “stand before God’s throne and worship him day and night in his temple.” The Lamb, for his part, leads them to “springs of life-giving water.” This week’s Gospel focuses on the Good Shepherd who beckons those who hear him to follow him. When we listen to the word of God at Mass, we hear his “voice.” Those who respond receive eternal life.
Key verse: “For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them” (Rev 7:16).
“Catechism of the Catholic Church”: “The Church is, accordingly, a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ. It is also the flock of which God himself foretold that he would be the shepherd, and whose sheep, even though governed by human shepherds, are unfailingly nourished and led by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and Prince of Shepherds, who gave his life for his sheep” (No. 754).
Pope Benedict XVI: “The Fourth Sunday of Easter is “Good Shepherd Sunday.” All the faithful are exhorted to pray especially for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. Let us ask for the gift of perseverance for all priests: may they stay faithful to prayer, celebrate holy Mass with ever renewed devotion, live listening to the Word of God and day after day assimilate the same sentiments and attitudes as those of Jesus, the Good Shepherd” (Regina Coeli, April 29, 2007).
Life application: In keeping with the title “Good Shepherd Sunday, this Sunday has been designated “World Day of Prayer for Vocations,” reminding us that Christ established the priesthood to represent him and perpetuate the miracle of redemption through history. Without priests we’d be deprived of the “springs of life-giving water.” This week especially we should pray for our priests that they may be true shepherds following the example of the Good Shepherd.