Christ is risen, alleluia! Let us rejoice and be glad, alleluia! For four weeks, now, we’ve sung and recited these words in hymns and the responsorial psalm as we celebrate the reality of Christ’s victory over sin and death. We sing “Gloria” and “alleluias,” we are sprinkled with holy water, surrounded by the aroma and color of lilies, tulips and daffodils, white vestments and the paschal candle, and we tell and retell the stories of Christ alive in our midst. And on this fourth Sunday, we do the same.
The context for the first reading is Peter’s speech to the Sanhedrin. He and John had been arrested because they cured the crippled man who sat begging at the Temple gate. Afterward, as they preached to the crowd that gathered, the Temple guards arrested them. When they came before the high priests and the Sanhedrin, they were asked by whose power Peter had cured the man. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter responded that it was in the name of Jesus, the Nazarene whom they had crucified and whom God raised from the dead. “There is no other name by which we are to be saved!”
The Gospel account is the passage where Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, unlike the hired worker who flees at the first sign of danger. This discourse was spoken earlier in Jesus’ ministry, but we hear it in the fuller context of the final days of his life: “I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 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.”
We can all identify someone who is truly dedicated to the well-being of others and who has a relationship with those for whom he or she cares. We saw it vividly in the service of firefighters and law enforcement officers in New York on 9-11. We experience it with dedicated parents and teachers. It is perfectly modeled in the life of Jesus who gave everything for us.
This week we reflect on Jesus’ ministry as shepherd, but also about those called to be shepherds as priests and ministers in the church. There are many kinds and forms of service. Those called to priesthood have a responsibility to model their lives according to the life of Jesus and to act “in the person of Christ.”
Theirs is a call to a lifetime of service, not a nine to five “job” until age 65 or even 75. Even in later years, a priest doesn’t “retire” from priesthood. He may give up the administration of a parish, but he continues to witness in his life and his prayer, and he serves wherever he can.
This weekend, let’s pray for those called to the ministry of shepherd and thank them for all that they do and are for us — model, mentor, mediator and spiritual guide. And let us also ask God to open the hearts of others who are called so that they may have the generosity to give their lives in service, and to live and minister as Jesus lived.
Sr. Rehrauer is the diocesan director of Evangelization, Living Justice and Worship.