"Christ, the Good Shepherd" by Murillo

“Christ, the Good Shepherd” by Murillo

“‘Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.’ Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:36-37)

Consider the times you have made mistakes, not just little ones, but big ones… errors in judgment and behavior that cut you to the quick? Each of us does foolish things and sometimes this behavior hurts others and not just ourselves. And at those times, you feel lost and unsure about how to make things right, how to repair the harm, how to move forward and live again.

In the first reading at today’s Mass from Acts, Peter addresses the crowds and he tells them they have made a huge mistake—the biggest of their lives.

Jesus, the Christ has been crucified and now His resurrection demonstrates that He is truly the Holy One of God. And more, He is God—the God who had come to the House of Israel and the House of Israel rejected Him.

Of course, not everyone listening had directly participated in this crime, but maybe some had… by their silence, maybe even by their calling out for the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Jesus.

Even if those present had been ignorant of the Passion and Crucifixion, they were now no longer ignorant and the Scriptures tell us how they felt after learning of it… “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37)

“Cut to the heart…” – we know how they felt for we have felt it too. Peter did not mince words, he was blunt and direct, saying to them, “Jesus whom you crucified…” (Acts 2:36).

Good News

But here is the Good News! In answer to their question, Peter told them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-29).

That’s right… Jesus came to save us all—even those who had crucified Him. All any of us need to start anew is a contrite heart, repentance and baptism. Could there ever be greater news than the love of God for His people?

Today, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, is Good Shepherd Sunday because of the beautiful passage in the tenth chapter of St. John’s Gospel which is proclaimed each year on this Sunday—Jesus gives us the image of Himself as a loving shepherd who cares for us, His sheep.

It is one of the most beautiful scriptural images of God’s relationship to us, His people, that of a shepherd to his sheep.

In Genesis, Jacob blessed the children of his son, Joseph, whom he never expected to see again, tenderly recalling God, “who has been my shepherd from my birth to this day.”

We cannot help but to be deeply affected by the image of the Lord as our shepherd in the 23rd Psalm from which the Responsorial Psalm of the Mass of Good Shepherd Sunday is taken.

If we allow God, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, to be present to us through our encounter with Christ in His Sacred Scriptures and we are willing to surrender to him our thought and will, we can gain great consolation, hope and therefore strength from this passage.  There is nothing we can do in this life that is beyond His mercy and healing except our refusal to receive His grace and forgiveness. Many people through the ages have been consoled and restored by the words of the Psalm for this Sunday – The Lord is my Shepherd.

The 23rd Psalm

The Lord is my shepherd,

I shall not want; he makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil;
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

From my earliest childhood, I still recall my own father reciting to me these words from the 23rd Psalm and John’s Gospel. And when I entered the turbulent teen years, he would remind me that I should listen for the voice of my shepherd. He taught me that I should stay close to Jesus, hear him, follow him.

Jesus tells us that His sheep know His voice. We know His voice. You know His voice! Listen for Him…

My brothers and sisters in Christ, it is Jesus who walks by and invites us to come and see… he says to us, “Come… follow me.” It is really that simple, no matter how difficult we try to make it, all we need concern ourselves with is following after Him. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and we are His sheep! Three thousand of His sheep were moved by Peter’s words of mercy and exhortation that day and were baptized. They were forgiven. They were restored. They were made anew.

No sin of yours is too great for the Lord to heal and forgive.

No harm you have caused is too great for the Lord to repair.

Each and every one of us needs to be made anew.

Let the Good Shepherd restore you today.

Rejoice and be at peace.

Into the Deep…

Into the Deep by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is a regular feature of the The Integrated Catholic Life™.

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