"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
April 25, 2012: Fourth Sunday of Easter
• Acts 4:8-12
Overview: In this week’s first reading Peter addresses the leaders of Jerusalem who had questioned him about the miraculous healing of a cripple. With great boldness Peter declares that it was through Jesus, whom they had killed but was raised from the dead, that the man could now walk. Peter explains the significance of the healing in light of salvation history. Jesus Christ, he says, is the author of salvation and cornerstone of God’s kingdom on earth. The healing of the crippled man attested to the risen Christ and was evidence of the divine life present in him.
In the second reading John reminds us that we are children of God. In one sense everyone is a child of God. But that’s not what John means. To be a “child of God” means that one has entered into an entirely new relationship with God through Christ. Apart from Christ one only has natural life, but in Christ one also has supernatural life. Through Christ we are children of God—“sons in the Son” and partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4).
The fourth Sunday of Easter is traditionally called “Good Shepherd Sunday” because of the Gospel appointed for this day. The “good shepherd” does two things: he lays down his life for the sheep and he gathers in those who are not yet part his fold.
This Sunday is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations and so the Gospel is meant to show how Christ, the Good Shepherd, is the model of the priesthood. Priests, like Christ, are called to lay down their lives and give themselves completely to the Church and to evangelize.
Key verse: “A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “This sacrament (of holy orders) configures the recipient to Christ by a special grace of the Holy Spirit, so that he may serve as Christ’s instrument for his Church. By ordination one is enabled to act as a representative of Christ, head of the Church, in his triple office of priest, prophet and king” (No. 1581).
Benedict XVI: “The Second Vatican Council highlights the universal call to holiness, when it affirms: ‘The followers of Christ are called by God, not because of their works, but according to his own purpose and grace. They are justified in the Lord Jesus, because in the baptism of faith they truly become sons of God and sharers in the divine nature.’ Within the framework of this universal call, Christ, the high priest, in his solicitude for the Church calls persons in every generation who are to care for his people. In particular, he calls to the ministerial priesthood men who are to exercise a fatherly role, the source of which is within the very fatherhood of God” (Message, May 7, 2006).
Life application: The readings during the Easter season show how the risen Lord continues his work of redemption in and through his Church. This week in particular we are reminded of how he works through his priests. Without priests there would be no sacraments and without the sacraments the divine life would be unavailable to us. Pray for your priests, and pray for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life so that, following the Good Shepherd, all may be brought into the one, true fold of Christ.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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