May 8, Sunday, the Fourth Week of Easter
Daily Readings: Acts 13:14, 43-52; Revelation 7:9, 14b-17; Gospel John 10-27-30
On this Good Shepherd Sunday, the Lord, the Good Shepherd, reaches out to our consciences. The Kingdom of Heaven demands that we love others without distinction. True love transcends affinity, language, culture, nation, and otherworldly categories.
Today, the Church celebrates the 4th Sunday of Easter. It is also called Good Shepherd Sunday. The Lord associates himself with the shepherd, for like a shepherd who takes care of the sheep, he takes care of the people. Interestingly, Jesus concludes his discourse on his relationship with the sheep by affirming his relationship with the Father. "The Father and I are one."
At first glance, by describing his relationship with the Father after presenting himself as a shepherd, Jesus seems to be jumping to another topic. In a deeper look at the change of the topic, Jesus points toward the telos (aim) of his mission, which is the communion of all with the Father, which is reflected in his communion with the Father.
In his ministry, Jesus has shown his constant effort through his words and actions to bring all people to the Father. He preaches the Gospel to all, criticizes the hypocrisy of the Scribes and the Pharisees to win their hearts back to God, dines with the sinners, and pours mercy on those who are marginalized by society. Jesus indeed concentrates his ministry on the Jews to bring "the lost sheep of Israel" back to God. Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 10:5-6).
However, this does not mean that Jesus does not want the salvation of the people outside Israel. This command is provoked by the imminent need for the repentance of the people of Israel since the time is short: "The Kingdom of God has come near" (Mark 1:15).
Jesus’ openness to the salvation of the people outside Israel (the Gentiles) is shown in some of his contacts with them as recorded in the Gospels: the healing of the Gadarene demoniac (Matthew 8:28–34), Jesus’ remark on the faith of the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21–28), Jesus’s encounter with the Gentile military leader (the Centurion) (Matthew 8:5–13), and some other texts.
Jesus’ commitment to bringing all people (the Israelites and the Gentiles) into communion with the Father is affirmed by his disciples. In the first reading, following the command of their master, Paul, and Barnabas go out to the Gentiles and preach the word of God: "It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles." So the Lord has commanded us, I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth" (Acts 13:46-47). The Gentiles, therefore, have room in the Kingdom of God.
In his vision, as we read in the second reading today, John confirms the communion of all in the Kingdom of God. "I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb" (Revelation 7:9). The Kingdom of Heaven is not limited to the Israelites but all.
The word of God becomes accessible to all, and consequently, the door of heaven is open to all. Jesus’s death and resurrection do not benefit only the Israelites but all who believe in him. This is good news for us. "The Gentiles were delighted, and they heard this and glorified the word of God."
Our accessibility to heaven always presupposes the willingness to listen to the voice of our Master. Like a shepherd, Jesus always makes sure that his voice is familiar and reaches the ears of his flock. In this way, Jesus makes sure that the community gathers safely around him. The familiarity of the voice and the assurance of the reachability of the voice to the flock guarantee the right direction of the path of the flock.
The question is: "How eager are we to listen to the voice of our Master?" The complexity of our situations sometimes makes us reluctant and even to the point of refusal to listen to the voice of God. We are occupied with our concern to reaching our interests. We put our interests beyond the voice of the Shepherd. We disregard the voice of God. Consequently, we isolate ourselves from communion with our loved ones, friends, and God.
On this Sunday, the Lord, the Good Shepherd, again reaches our conscience to win us back to him. He calls us to listen to him and follow the direction of his voice so that we can be one with him and the Father in the Kingdom of heaven, where "he gives us eternal life, and we shall never perish." Our quench for eternal life and the willingness to listen to the word of God, however, demands us to be persons who have hearts for all.
Our love for others sometimes is limited by specific categories that cause us to love only certain persons. True love goes beyond affinity, language, culture, nation, and whatever classes the world may use.
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.