5/4/2017 9:00:00 AM WORD OF FAITH Speaking in a clear voice
BY REV. ANTHONY LIGATO
FROM A READING FOR MAY 7, FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
'Peter addressed them...."Let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified....Repent and be baptized..."' -- Acts 2:14,36
(Editor's note: With this column, Rev. Anthony Ligato joins The Evangelist as a writer for the "Word of Faith" Scripture column. He is diocesan vicar for vocations and pastor of St. Jude the Apostle parish in Wynantskill.)
The fourth Sunday of Easter is affectionately known as Good Shepherd Sunday. We all are familiar with the image of Jesus carrying the lost sheep on His shoulders as He leads it home safely.
In this image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, we are all given a loud and clear message that what Jesus Christ does for us, we are called to do for one another. Jesus the Good Shepherd serves us by seeking us out, and He leads us home safely to the kingdom. Jesus asks us to trust by listening to His voice and following where His voice leads.
The Scripture readings on this fourth Sunday of Easter send a loud and clear message to each of us by using Jesus' example of service and leadership and His ability to trust in the Father's will.
The loud and clear message from Jesus of service, leadership and trust was first spoken to the Pharisees in the Gospel of John (10:1-10): "Whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, and the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out."
Throw down gauntlet
The challenge to the Pharisees and to each of us is our willingness to be identified as members of the flock. The Pharisees were not recognizable as members of the flock; nor were they willing to be leaders. Where did that leave them? Members of the flock did not respond to them, because they did not speak in a loud and clear manner. Their words were confusing and had a legalistic tone -- hardly invoking a sense of service, leadership or trustworthiness.
Jesus said they were unfit leaders because they did not serve the flock entrusted to them. "All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture."
Those words of Jesus inspire us to trust in His service and leadership as Lord and savior.
The earthly successor to Jesus the Good Shepherd was handpicked by Jesus when He asked Peter, "Who do people say that I am?" Peter responded, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:18). Jesus said, "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church."
We know, however, that Peter did not speak in a loud and clear voice all the time. Take, for example, the Passion of our Lord (Mt 26:69-75): Jesus was on trial before the Sanhedrin. Peter was in the courtyard. People asked if he was one of Jesus' disciples, and Peter denied Him three times. Peter was loud and clear in his response that he was unwilling to serve, lead or trust.
In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (2:14,36-41), Peter speaks loudly and clearly that he is ready to serve, lead and trust in the risen Lord: "Peter stood up with the 11, raised his voice and proclaimed: 'Let the whole house of Israel know certain that God has made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus.'"
Peter was willing to serve and lead because he was able to trust. He had to proclaim in a loud and clear voice to Jesus after the resurrection (Jn 21:15-19), when Jesus asked three times, "Do you love me?" Peter said, "Yes." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs....Tend my sheep....Feed my sheep" -- and to trust where Jesus would lead him. That implied Peter's own martyrdom on the cross.
This is a message is for all the baptized. In the second reading (1 Pt 2:20-25), the author speaks to the early Church that must survive in a culture and society that is at best hostile to the message of salvation: "You have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His footsteps."
These words encourage us today as we face the same difficulties as the early Church: We are called to walk the way of the Good Shepherd, to serve, lead and trust. For this, we have been baptized; for this, we have been given a share in Jesus' threefold ministry as priest, prophet and king -- to bring holiness into the world and to become a witness to the living Word of God.
By exercising these two areas of ministry, we put into action Jesus' kingship, which calls us all to be servant leaders. Then we can speak in a loud and clear voice: "The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want" (Ps.23).