Fourth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

1st Reading: Acts 13: 14, 43-52

Responsorial Psalm:  Psalm 100: 1-2, 3, 5

2nd Reading: Revelation 7: 9, 14b-17

Gospel: John 10: 27-30

This Sunday is called “Good Shepherd Sunday.”  The people hearing this message knew shepherding and sheep very well.  Sheep were the most valuable commodity in the Mediterranean world at the time.  Sheep were very efficient to feed.  (They’ll eat just about anything and everything.)  Sheep were hearty animals, very fertile and easy to house and maintain.  Sheep were profitable as well.  Not only were they a source of meat, but you could also use the milk and wool which were renewable resources. 

But unless you have raised sheep yourself, this analogy may seem a little awkward.  Sheep are the STUPIDEST animals God put on His green Earth.

Now I know that animals are not supposed to be able to reason, but anyone who has ever owned a good dog will argue the case.  Even a pig knows that lying in the mud feels good!  But sheep don’t have the sense that God gave a turnip. 

 Furthermore, sheep have very curious social habits.  It’s called a mob mentality.  They’ll just go along with what the majority of the group is doing.  There is no individual thinking.  In 2005, there was an incident in Turkey demonstrating this behavior.  Following is the actual news story:

Nearly 1,500 Sheep Jump Off Cliff in Turkey

About 450 Are Killed, Cushioning the Fall for the Rest

ISTANBUL, Turkey (July 8, 2005) - First one sheep jumped to its death. Then stunned Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500 others followed, each leaping off the same cliff, Turkish media reported.

In the end, 450 dead animals lay on top of one another in a billowy white pile, the Aksam newspaper said. Those who jumped later were saved as the pile got higher and the fall more cushioned, Aksam reported.

"There's nothing we can do. They're all wasted," Nevzat Bayhan, a member of one of 26 families whose sheep were grazing together in the herd, was quoted as saying by Aksam.

The estimated loss to families in the town of Gevas, located in Van province in eastern Turkey, tops $100,000, a significant amount of money in a country where average GDP per head is around $2,700.

"Every family had an average of 20 sheep," Aksam quoted another villager, Abdullah Hazar as saying. "But now only a few families have sheep left. It's going to be hard for us."

Just like sheep, we don’t always do the right thing or even what is in our best interest.  But there is one positive attribute.  Sheep learn to trust.  It comes only after hours and hours spent, with positive interaction that this relationship can be formed.  This relationship becomes so binding between shepherd and sheep; they will know him so intimately that they can even recognize his voice when he calls.  The sheep will learn to trust the shepherd.  They eventually learn that the shepherd has their best interest at heart and is there to protect and nurture them.

Jesus is telling us, His sheep; we can trust him.  And furthermore, this trust is as much with the Father as it is with Him because they are one.  There is unity, a unity that only comes from love and obedience.  If you hear the voice of the shepherd, you are hearing God as well for they are one; unified.

Jesus wants that same unity with us and for us.  The unity that only comes from love and obedience. If we allow him, he will fulfill all of our needs.  Just as the shepherd cares for the sheep.  “No one can take them out of the Father’s hand.” No one can take this relationship away from us, but we can give it away, and we can choose not to participate.  Even sheep know the shepherd will take care of them.

Maybe sheep not so stupid after all.

Reflection questions:

  1. When have you been shepherded directly by the Lord (for example, through prayer or circumstances?)

  2. When have you been shepherded by the Lord through another person?

  3. Sheep are not very intelligent animals. How do you feel about being called a sheep (or lamb)?

  4. How do you know the “shepherd”? How can you tell that you are not being led astray by a hireling?

Click here to view original handout from the RCIA Catechumenate session.