Gospel Commentary by Fr. Joseph Rampino | Fourth Sunday of Easter
The Lord of Life
Once more this Easter season we turn to John’s Gospel, allowing Christ to teach us what Eastertime really means, and how we can enter into living it well.
This week, we do not see Christ after His resurrection, but instead hear Him refer to Himself as the Good Shepherd. He is in the midst of a disputation with the crowds of the Pharisees after healing the man born blind, and giving an account of Himself in response to their challenges. The Pharisees refuse to believe in the miracle, saying of Jesus, “we do not know where he is from.” Christ in turn tells them the nature of His mission, and hints strongly at His true identity.
The Lord tells the doubting crowds that He has come for the sake of caring for all of God’s sheep, both those of Israel, and those of the pagan nations. Using the image of the shepherd, He foretells the Passion which He would undergo for the sake of all. Speaking of his death and resurrection, He says: the Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep. Now, this is certainly a familiar line to us; we know well the mission of Jesus for our sake. Yet what follows leads us in a different direction. Christ continues, saying: no one takes my life from me, but I lay it down myself. I have power to lay it down and take it up again.
We know of many people who out of love, courage, and goodness lay down their lives for the sake of their families, friends, countrymen, or fellow human beings. We see this sort of heroism throughout all times and places. Yet, the Lord makes clear that He is not only good because He lays down His life, but because He has power to lay it down and take it up again. Jesus does not speak only as a generous lover of humanity. He speaks as the Almighty God, who can undergo His pas-sion and death of His own will, but who also rises of His own will. He does not just gives Himself up to His suffering, only to receive the unexpected reward of being raised. He is in charge of everything, and goes into battle with death knowing that He will triumph.
How deeply do we believe in the divinity of the Lord Jesus? Do we really trust in the eternal power of Christ living in us? Do we really trust that He can and will bring good out of everything, and lead us to heaven if we let Him? Believing in His divinity is not merely a point of theological truth, but a matter of whether we can really hope or not. Perhaps it would be a good practice for the rest of this Easter season to make acts of hope in Jesus Christ our God, handing our troubles, fears, and con-cerns to His peaceful and almighty heart every day, knowing that He has conquered, and will never abandon us in anything. Resting in the arms of the Good Shepherd, the arms of our God, honors the stability of His ever-living love, spreads Christian peace to souls in need here in time, and prepares us all for the grand rest of eternity.