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SUNDAY SCRIPTURES FOR APRIL 21 | The Easter season is a time to deepen our path of discipleship with Jesus

Jesus is our Good Shepherd; He stays with us and doesn’t abandon us

One of the things we might notice as we listened to the recitation of Jesus’ passion is that almost everyone abandoned or betrayed Him. Those closest to Him and who spent the most time with Him were the first to deny or betray Him. Only a few stayed with Him when things got tough.

In the Scriptures for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, we have the image of a Good Shepherd. We’ve heard that title so often that it might not seem to be prophetic or of any depth. Let’s look at those two aspects of the image of the Good Shepherd.

Jesus says He will not abandon us when times get tough. Examine your belief about Jesus’ relationship with us when we experience sins and failings. Don’t we often think about Jesus being far away from us, or that we have the power to scare Him away by our sins? The opposite is the truth. He is our Good Shepherd; He knows our names, and we belong to Him. When we are threatened by anything, He stays with us and doesn’t abandon us. We can count on His presence. He is giving us the gift He did not have when He died. He allows us to have a solid foundation throughout our lives, depending not on our actions but on His love and commitment to us. Enjoy that gift and allow it to be your foundation.

I’m asking everyone to reform the image of a shepherd so that it is truly how a shepherd looks and what a shepherd does. Shepherds would be smelly, dirty and somewhat isolated. They would spend most of their life with their sheep, including sleeping with them. If there is some sort of a corral in which the sheep are kept, the shepherd stays alert to ensure that no animals attack the sheep. That constant vigilance causes the shepherd to spend more time with the sheep than in his own pursuits. His life is dedicated to the flock. He would pick up the scent of his sheep and might even get to know the peculiar sounds and movements of each of the members of the flock.

We see in our reading from the Acts of the Apostles that Peter has taken on some of Jesus’ characteristics. When threatened by some of the leaders of his time, he refuses to back down from his allegiance to Jesus and instead strengthens it by his public witness to those who threaten him. By what other name could people be saved? At one point in his life, Peter doubted that and denied it; in this instance, he was faithful to Jesus. It is a sign of his continuing conversion and deepening discipleship path.

During this Easter season, as we make our way toward Pentecost, we are asked to deepen our path of discipleship with Jesus. We are all aware of how we have betrayed or denied Jesus in our lives. We repent of our sins and try to live good and faithful lives. We might not be so good at making sure that other people know of the freedom, joy and peace that come from being with the Good Shepherd. What steps are you taking to become a more well-founded disciple of Jesus? What tools are you learning to be able to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others?

Are you a Pentecostal Catholic Christian or simply an Easter Catholic Christian?

Father Donald Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.

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