April 22: Our God is Big! (Easter 4 B)

“Jesus said: ‘I am the good shepherd’… and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” John 10:11-18.

Today, on this fourth Sunday of Easter, we pay close attention to this Good Shepherd that we too may possess the qualities of tenderness and care as witnesses to the Lord, and even as his shepherds – namely caring for those in need.

During Holy Week, I took notice of the film “Paul, Apostle of Christ,” which was in our theaters, written and directed by Andrew Hyatt. The film stars James Faulkner as an aged Saint Paul, awaiting his fate in a Rome prison, and Jim Caviezel as Saint Luke, the gospel writer and author of the Acts of the Apostles, which figures so prominently in our reading during the Easter Season.

One obscure note about the friendship of Paul and Luke, and discovered in the 2nd Letter of Paul to Timothy (and used to significant effect in the film) is that Luke comes to Paul’s aid while in a Rome prison. Paul states: “Apart from Luke, I have no one with me.”

In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke recounts the early days of the primitive Church so the work of the first Christian community might not be lost, and that the Lord’s work might continue in his followers.

In an interview, Andrew Hyatt makes the point that for Paul — the love, mercy, and grace of Jesus Christ speak of a God that is bigger than us.

Even the name of Paul, which means “little one,” replaced his previous name Saul meaning “great one,” with the implication that the Lord must increase, and we must decrease.

For a moment let’s take a closer examination at our very first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, here the followers of the Lord — Peter and John possess great new powers of preaching and healing but soon find themselves in deep trouble.

Earlier, we heard the passage in Acts 4, where Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and defended himself to the leaders of the people and elders.

In Acts 3, Luke tells the story of the healing of a cripple man at the temple that provides an example of the preaching and healing ministry of these new shepherds of Christ.

Let me read a brief portion. Focus on the care, attention, and tenderness Peter and John provide this disabled man; because now that they too are shepherds — caring for the hurt, the abandoned, people on the periphery.

One day at three in the afternoon, the hour of prayer, Peter and John were on their way up to the temple. Now a man who had been a cripple from birth used to be carried there and laid every day by the temple gate called Beautiful to beg from people as they went in. When he saw Peter and John on their way to the temple, he asked for alms.

They both fixed their eyes on him, and Peter said, ‘Look at us.’ Expecting a gift from them, the man was all attention. Peter said, ‘I have no silver or gold, but what I have to give you: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk.’

Then, grasping him by the right hand, he helped him up; and at once, his feet and ankles grew strong; he sprang to his feet, started to walk. He entered the temple with them, leaping and praising God as he went.

Everyone saw him walking and praising God, and when they recognized him as the man who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate, they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

On this Good Shepherd Sunday, these truly “good shepherds” listen attentively to the “cry of the poor.” They take notice of needs and hurts, and bring hope and healing, notably to those on the outside of the temple. Not to those “in the know” or “in the right circles.” Instead, they listen to those on the outside, those on the periphery.

Let us consider how the words and actions of “good shepherds” might speak over the noise that dominates much of our lives these days. We pray that a spiritually powerful voice, one that gives spiritual direction might come through and rest deeply into our lives.

To this point, a friend of mine reminds me that the closer we are to the Good Shepherd, and the more we listen to him in prayer and reflection, only then will his direction have bearing or impact on the course of our lives.

Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA


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