The fourth Sunday of Easter, also called Good Shepherd Sunday, takes us back into Jesus’ public ministry (John 10:11-18). Up to this point in the Easter Season, we have heard Gospels proclaiming the resurrection appearances of Jesus. This Sunday, the Church takes us back to Jesus’ public ministry, earlier in the Gospel story, to remind us how Jesus Himself understood and explained His death and ¬≠resurrection to people before it happened.

The image that Jesus uses is that of a shepherd. It is the shepherd’s job to keep the sheep safe, to make sure that they have food and water and to protect them from predators. Jesus applies Himself to all these tasks. He also points out that the sheep know His voice, and He knows each sheep, each member of the flock. This bespeaks the tenderness and care that Jesus has for each of us.

The image of the shepherd has one other important element. The Good Shepherd does not just protect the sheep. He actually lays down His life for the sheep. He dies in order that they might live. He also knows that He will take up His life again, a clear reference to the resurrection. Jesus’ words inspire confidence in His love and trust in His power. He knew what it meant to be Our Shepherd and underwent death in order to save us.

In Sunday’s Second Reading (1 John 3:1-2) Saint John, the Beloved Disciple, takes the relationship we have with Jesus to an even deeper level, that of being children of God — not just members of His sheepfold. It may not always feel like we are God’s children, but the reality is that something has profoundly changed in the soul of each person who believes in Jesus and is baptized.

In baptism, our adoption is sealed, and we belong to God. Saint John encourages us, even when we might feel discouraged in our relationship with God, to always remember the truth of who we are. He writes: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” These words are for our encouragement and consolation as we make our way toward heaven. All of God’s care and our new, filial relationship with Him has been revealed to us through the Paschal mystery, that is, the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.

That is what Saint Peter proclaims in Sunday’s First Reading (Acts 4:8-12). The scene happens after Peter and John healed a lame man while they were going to the temple to pray. The crowd was astounded at the miracle and so the apostles preached to them about Jesus’ resurrection. This got the apostles thrown into prison by the Jewish elders and scribes, who then interrogated them. The reading is Peter’s response to their questioning. Peter says that they did not heal the man by their own power — of course not! Instead, Peter proclaims, “… by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well.”

It is by the same name, by the same power of Jesus, that we are healed and made whole. The apostles went forth and preached that message because they had known and experienced the merciful love of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. That has been the Church’s proclamation from the beginning and it will be the same until the end of time. As Saint Peter preached and as we believe, “… there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”