Fourth Sunday of Easter
- · Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
- · Today in Catholic History
- · Quote or Joke
- · Today’s Gospel Reading
- · Gospel Reflection
- · Reflection Prayer
- · Catholic Apologetics
- · A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
- · Reflection on part of the OFS Rule
My third son made his Confirmation in the Catholic Church today. I am so proud of him. I pray he, and all my children, find a love, trust, and hope for our faith.
† 1380 – Death of Catherine of Siena, Italian saint (b. 1347)
† 1429 – Joan of Arc arrives to relieve the Siege of Orléans
† 1670 – Pope Clemens X elected
† 1863 – Birth of Maria Theresa Ledochowska, Polish-Austrian Catholic nun (d. 1922)
† Feasts/Memorials: Saint Catherine of Siena; Saint Robert (d.1111); Saint Wilfred the Younger; Saint Peter of Verona; Saint Hugh of Cluny
(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
“Today in Catholic History”
Today’s reflection: Jesus says that He is the “good shepherd” who knows His sheep.
(NAB John 10:11-18) 11 I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. 13 This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 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. This command I have received from my Father.”
The fourth Sunday of Easter is also called “Good Shepherd” Sunday. Unless we consider this 10th chapter in the greater context of John’s Gospel, we will miss the radical nature of the statement Jesus makes when He declares Himself to be the “Good Shepherd”. Today’s reading follows Jesus’ healing of the man born blind and the rejection of this miracle by the Jewish Pharisees and leaders, who questioned Jesus’ authority to heal. Jesus responds to this challenge by calling Himself the “Good Shepherd”. In doing so, He criticized the Pharisees and the other Jewish leaders. The Pharisees and other Jewish leaders became so angry that they attempt to stone and arrest Jesus (cf., John 10:31,39). This controversy with the religious leaders will, from this point on, continue and grow in intensity until Jesus’ arrest and public death.
In today’s reading, Jesus describes His relationship with His followers as similar to the relationship between a “good shepherd” and His sheep. As a good shepherd will risk and lay down his life in order to protect his sheep, Jesus willingly sacrifices Himself for the good and welfare of His sheep. Jesus contrasts His actions of the “good shepherd” with the actions of the “hired shepherd” who abandons the sheep in the face of danger. In today’s Gospel reading, we learn the Pharisees and the other religious leaders understand that Jesus is referring to them when He describes the “hired shepherds”. (he, he, he)
The “good shepherd” figure is allegorical (figurative or symbolic) in origin. Jesus loved parables, and also loved using allegory to explain the unexplainable. Like a parent trying to teach conceptual ideas to a toddler, He uses simple words to project a picture in our own minds of what He means to convey. I believe that even with these simple teaching tools and tricks, there is no way we, as sinful human beings, can ever grasp the true meaning of what Jesus knows, and ties to express to His original audience, and to us. Only after this existence on earth, when our permanent address changes for the last time (how’s that for allegory), will we truly, completely, and fully know what He knows, and wants to impart to us. I can sum up my eagerness and desire for the true meaning of Jesus’ “Words” as a present sitting under a tree, anticipating the day it can be opened and revealed to me. All I can do is have faith, have hope, and have trust! (And, I do! I believe in the Gospel of Jesus and in the Jesus of the Gospel!)
There is truly so much hidden – – in the words of today’s reading. John loves to use what I call “word gems” to get across a meaning so rich, and having so many layers. Thus, I truly believe he satiates every bible scholars, and every casual reader’s, interest in delving into the Holy Scriptures. For this purpose, I will be looking at each sentence individually and sometimes even words individually, in order to peel away as many layers as possible for this short Gospel reflection. So, hang-on – – for it’s going to be a fun ride perusing both Old and New Testaments, and pursuing the meaning and understanding of both Old and New COVENANTS of our magnificent Lord, Creator, and “Good Shepherd”.
“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11).
Jesus, through John, is referring to two “word gems” in the Old Testament book of Isaiah; and at what John would write, inspired by the Holy Spirit, in the last book of the Holy Bible, The Revelation of Jesus Christ:
“Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, Carrying them in his bosom, leading the ewes with care.” (Isaiah 40:11);
“For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:17).
Jesus Christ is OUR true and loving shepherd, always watching over and caring for us, His flock. He “laid down His life for us”, and gathers His flock, STILL TODAY, leading ALL to His heavenly pasture. (The Holy Eucharist Worship??)
The actions of the “good shepherd” are based upon the relationship between the shepherd and each of His sheep. This IS the core difference between the “good shepherd” and the “hired shepherd”. The “good shepherd” knows (and cares for) every sheep, every lamb, personally, uniquely, and intimately; therefore he acts out of love. For Him, this is never simply “part of a job” – – it is “love-in-action”. This “love-in-action” is truly at the heart of His identity. Just as the sheep are known by the “Good Shepherd”, so too God the Father knows Jesus, AND, Jesus knows God the Father. There is an essential unity between the Father and the Son made clearer in John’s understanding of who, and what, Jesus truly was then, and still is today. The freedom with which Jesus acts when He lays down His life is rooted in the loving unity He shares with His Father. (That “loving unity” has a title: the Holy Spirit!)
The first “word gem” verse (John 10:11) reveals the qualities of the “good shepherd”. Verse 12 reveals the character of a hireling: someone just “doing the job”, without loving or caring for his “flock”. It also relates to what happens when we trust anyone other than the “good shepherd”: Jesus, the Messiah. This “bad shepherd” allegory refers to the “Oracle of the Worthless Shepherd” narratives found in the earlier book of Zechariah:
“Ah! my worthless shepherd who forsakes the flock! May the sword fall upon his arm and upon his right eye; His arm will surely wither, and his right eye surely go blind!” (Zechariah 11:17).
Zechariah goes into great detail about the three shepherds and the destruction of Jerusalem. Please read the entire parable (cf., Zechariah 11:4-17) to learn more.
In our reading today, Jesus is truly the “good shepherd”! We can be good shepherds as well, by simply following His model of humility and dedication to The “Word”. Jesus gave us the commandment:
“This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13);
“The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16).
Jesus promised a happy life without end. Death would not be the end; but instead, the beginning. We would know the glory of His everlasting life. Jesus, as the “good shepherd”, promised a life which was secure. Nothing will snatch us out of His hand, not even sorrow and death, since He is everlasting life itself. Our lives are forever truly safe in His hands. (That’s even better than Allstate.)
So what does Jesus mean by saying the following in today’s reading:
“I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.”? (John 10:16)
I believe His reference to “other sheep” is a reference to both the “Gentiles” and to “God’s dispersed children” of John 11:
These “dispersed children” were (and still are) destined to be gathered into “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic” Church. These four adjectives are understood to be the four “pillars” of the Catholic (Universal) Church. It seems these “dispersed children” were at odds with the first century community of the beloved disciple, John – – and may still be, TODAY, at odds with the “eternal” and true “universal” Church – – the Catholic Church.
Jesus is the shepherd gathering all that have strayed back into one flock. Remember, from a historical view of first-century Israel, the twelve tribes of Israel had split and separated into two distinct “tribes” related to the main “places” of the “Promised Land”. Jesus came to gather ALL the “tribes”, composed of ten tribes of the north called Israel, and two major tribes of the south called Judah, along with all other Gentiles, thus making a new and glorious “flock”. This thought of Jesus Christ gathering everyone is foretold by several Old Testament prophets:
“Others will I gather to them besides those already gathered.” (Isaiah 56:8);
“I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have banished them and bring them back to their folds; there they shall be fruitful and multiply.” (Jeremiah 23:3);
“I will appoint one shepherd over them to pasture them, my servant David; he shall pasture them and be their shepherd.” (Ezekiel 34:23);
“David my servant shall be king over them; they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my ordinances, observe my statutes, and keep them.” (Ezekiel 37:24);
“I will gather you, Jacob, each and every one, I will assemble all the remnant of Israel; I will group them like a flock in the fold, like a herd in its pasture; the noise of the people will resound.” (Micah 2:12).
In this context of being the “Good Shepherd”, Jesus also refers to others with whom He desires to share a personal, unique, and intimate relationship. John truly understood the eventual inclusion of the Gentiles into the Christian community. Our modern ears may hear relate part of today’s Gospel as a reference to Christian unity in today’s world. The work of ecumenism (a movement promoting unity between different Christian churches and groups) is to restore unity among all Christians so that we form “one flock” under “one shepherd”, as God the Father desires.
Jesus came to gather His “flock” knowing that, as a “good shepherd”, He would have to put His own human life in harm’s way to gather and to protect each and every one of His charge’s, ALL of God’s creations. Jesus, however, came not only to give His life for others, but also to show that our life can be sanctified, made Holy – – “taken up again” – – through the “love” of God the “Father”:
“By this ‘will,’ we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10).
John , in today’s reading, reports Jesus as saying:
“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.” (John 10:18)
Within a short period of time, Jesus again will be saying a similar phrase to Pilate, at His trial on false (but true?) charges:
Jesus answered [Pilate], “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above. For this reason the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:11)
In verse 18, the “power to take it up again”, is a statement which contrasts the role of God the Father as THE capable and competent source and cause of Jesus’ (and ours – eventual) resurrection from the dead to a whole NEW form of eternal life. This power is testified to by Peter, as Luke reports, in Acts:
“God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it.” (Acts) 2:24;
“All of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed.” (Acts 4:10).
And, as Paul proclaims to the Roman Christian community that Jesus was:
“…established as Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 1:4);
Concerning the power of Jesus’ “free choice” to lay down His life as an act of personal love and obedience, John felt compelled to add Jesus saying:
“This command I have received from my Father.” (John 10:18)
Jesus was truly doing the “will” of His Father. Hmm, I wonder whether I can follow His “will” to such an end – – and NEW beginning!!
To conclude, the words Jesus spoke then upset many of the Jewish leaders. Some asked, “How could He speak with the same authority which God spoke and claim to be equal with God?” The Pharisees probably thought He must either be insane or divine. We too are faced with the same choice today. Either Jesus IS who He claims to be – – the divine Son of God and Savior of the world – – or the world’s greatest persuader of untruths!
We cannot be indifferent to His claim of authority. For those who accept Him as Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ offers the peace and security of unending, peaceful, life and joy with His (and ours) God the Father. Do you have and know the peace and security of a life fully submitted to Jesus? Do you listen attentively to the voice and “Word” of the “Good Shepherd”? Let’s “gather” and get the “flock” out of here!
“Prayer for Generosity”
St. Ignatius of Loyola
“Eternal Word, only begotten Son of God,
Teach me true generosity.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve.
To give without counting the cost,
To fight heedless of wounds,
To labor without seeking rest,
To sacrifice myself without thought of any reward
Save the knowledge that I have done your will. Amen.”
My reason and purpose for this section on my blog is to provide “scriptural confirmation” for our beliefs and doctrines, not to cause dissention or opposition with my fellow believers in Jesus Christ, yet not in union with the Roman Catholic Church. Whether God speaks to us through the “Bible”, or through “Tradition”, it is the Holy Spirit that inspires the “Word” from which all authentic tradition flows.
Tradition can be separated into two aspects: oral and behavioral. Oral tradition includes written forms. After all, it ALL started with oral tradition. Behavioral tradition includes Baptism, Eucharist or Lord’s Supper, Lying on of hands or healing, Intercessory prayer, and Ordination.
All Scriptural verses are taken from both the Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible and the King James Version of the Holy Bible.
Praying to the Saints
“‘And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God said to him, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is not God of the dead, but of the living …’” (Mark 12:26-27) RSV.
“And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living …” (Mark 12:26-27) KJV.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely . . .” (Hebrews 12:1) RSV.
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us …” (Hebrews 12:1) KJV.
The value Catherine makes central in her short life and which sounds clearly and consistently through her experience is complete surrender to Christ. What is most impressive about her is that she learns to view her surrender to her Lord as a goal to be reached through time.
She was the 23rd child of Jacopo and Lapa Benincasa and grew up as an intelligent, cheerful and intensely religious person. Catherine disappointed her mother by cutting off her hair as a protest against being overly encouraged to improve her appearance in order to attract a husband. Her father ordered her to be left in peace, and she was given a room of her own for prayer and meditation.
She entered the Dominican Third Order at 18 and spent the next three years in seclusion, prayer and austerity. Gradually a group of followers gathered around her—men and women, priests and religious. An active public apostolate grew out of her contemplative life. Her letters, mostly for spiritual instruction and encouragement of her followers, began to take more and more note of public affairs. Opposition and slander resulted from her mixing fearlessly with the world and speaking with the candor and authority of one completely committed to Christ. She was cleared of all charges at the Dominican General Chapter of 1374.
Her public influence reached great heights because of her evident holiness, her membership in the Dominican Third Order, and the deep impression she made on the pope. She worked tirelessly for the crusade against the Turks and for peace between Florence and the pope
In 1378, the Great Schism began, splitting the allegiance of Christendom between two, then three, popes and putting even saints on opposing sides. Catherine spent the last two years of her life in Rome, in prayer and pleading on behalf of the cause of Urban VI and the unity of the Church. She offered herself as a victim for the Church in its agony. She died surrounded by her “children.”
Catherine ranks high among the mystics and spiritual writers of the Church. In 1939, she and Francis of Assisi were declared co-patrons of Italy. Paul VI named her and Teresa of Avila doctors of the Church in 1970. Her spiritual testament is found in The Dialogue.
Though she lived her life in a faith experience and spirituality far different from that of our own time, Catherine of Siena stands as a companion with us on the Christian journey in her undivided effort to invite the Lord to take flesh in her own life. Events which might make us wince or chuckle or even yawn fill her biographies: a mystical experience at six, childhood betrothal to Christ, stories of harsh asceticism, her frequent ecstatic visions. Still, Catherine lived in an age which did not know the rapid change of 21st-century mobile America. The value of her life for us today lies in her recognition of holiness as a goal to be sought over the course of a lifetime.
Catherine’s book Dialogue contains four treatises—her testament of faith to the spiritual world. She wrote, “No one should judge that he has greater perfection because he performs great penances and gives himself in excess to the staying of the body than he who does less, inasmuch as neither virtue nor merit consists therein; for otherwise he would be an evil case, who for some legitimate reason was unable to do actual penance. Merit consists in the virtue of love alone, flavored with the light of true discretion without which the soul is worth nothing.”
Patron Saint of Europe & Italy
Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey,
O.F.M. (From http://www.americancatholic.org website)
Prologue to the
Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) Rule:
In the name of the Lord!
Concerning Those Who Do Penance
All who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and mind, with all their strength (cf. Mk 12:30), and love their neighbors as themselves (cf. Mt 22:39) and hate their bodies with their vices and sins, and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and produce worthy fruits of penance.
Oh, how happy and blessed are these men and women when they do these things and persevere in doing them, because “the spirit of the Lord will rest upon them” (cf. Is 11:2) and he will make “his home and dwelling among them” (cf Jn 14:23), and they are the sons of the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:45), whose works they do, and they are the spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mt 12:50).
We are spouses, when by the Holy Spirit the faithful soul is united with our Lord Jesus Christ; we are brothers to him when we fulfill “the will of the Father who is in heaven” (Mt 12:50).
We are mothers, when we carry him in our heart and body (cf. 1 Cor 6:20) through divine love and a pure and sincere conscience; we give birth to him through a holy life which must give life to others by example (cf. Mt 5:16).
Oh, how glorious it is to have a great and holy Father in heaven! Oh, how glorious it is to have such a beautiful and admirable Spouse, the Holy Paraclete.
Oh, how glorious it is to have such a Brother and such a Son, loved, beloved, humble, peaceful, sweet, lovable, and desirable above all: Our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave up his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10:15) and prayed to the Father saying:
“Oh, holy Father, protect them with your name (cf. Jn 17:11) whom you gave me out of the world. I entrusted to them the message you entrusted to me and they received it. They have known that in truth I came from you; they have believed that it was you who sent me. For these I pray, not for the world (cf. Jn 17:9). Bless and consecrate them, and I consecrate myself for their sakes. I do not pray for them alone; I pray also for those who will believe in me through their word (cf. Jn 17:20) that they may be holy by being one, as we are (cf. Jn 17:11). And I desire, Father, to have them in my company where I am to see this glory of mine in your kingdom” (cf. Jn 17:6-24).