Sunday, April 25, 2021, Fourth Sunday of Easter
In the End, Nothing Can Stop the Power of God
First Reading Commentary: Acts 4: 8-12
After the crippled man had been healed, the guards and the Sadducees arrested Peter and John. They were disturbed by what Peter and John were doing. So, all of the chief priests assembled and they questioned Peter and John wanting to know by what power or by what name they were acting. Peter became filled with the Holy Spirit and told the chief priests and Sadducees that he and John were acting in the name of Jesus the Nazorean whom they crucified.
The chief priests thought that if they denied the Resurrection that the people would not believe that it happened. They could not have been any more mistaken. They had nothing to offer the people except lies. Peter on the other hand, was filled with the Holy Spirit and was preaching and healing people in the name of Jesus.
The people had a choice to make. They could believe the chief priests, or they could believe Peter and the Apostles. More and more, the people began to believe the Apostles. Did the people begin to believe out of faith, or did they begin to believe because of what they saw?
No doubt, the answer is some of both but that is not as important as what Peter said, “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” Peter made this point because during the time of the Roman Empire, Caesar was hailed as a savior and a god. Peter was proclaiming that there was, but one God and that God was not Caesar.
One God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit with Jesus Christ being the Son is the one and only God. Whether we accept that on blind faith, which God wants us to do, or whether it takes something to happen in our lives to convince us, what matters in the end is that we do believe that there is only one God.
One of the things which we see here and all over Scripture, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, is the fact that God does not give up on us. God gives us every opportunity to put our faith in Him. Think about it. The chief priests, Sadducees and guards are given an opportunity to become believers here.
We know that they did not take advantage of this opportunity. Sadly, history tells us that most of them never did. Christians ever since the time of Christ, have chosen to believe out of faith or because they have seen that God’s truth and power will prevail. Either way, nothing can stop the power of God.
God Is Our Creator, Our Provider and Our Savior
Second Reading Commentary: 1 John 3:1-2
What makes us children of God? In order to consider this question, we must first believe that God does exist and we must place our faith in Him. We have to accept that He is our Creator, our Provider and our Savior. Without that faith, we cannot call ourselves children of God.
This is what John is telling us today. But John is also making the point that we are called the children of God because of God’s love for us. In his Gospel, John said, “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” John 1:14. John also said in his Gospel, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him…might have eternal life,” John 3:16.
What greater love can there be? The answer is: none. But John wants us to remember this fact today as he emphasizes the point that those who believe are children of God.
By taking on human form, Jesus Christ became just like us in every way except for sin. He made Himself a part of us and in so doing; He made us a part of Him. In His humanity, Christ became a child of God just like us and each of us became a working part of His Mystical Body. Those of us who have faith are able to achieve eternal life through Christ because we are a part of His Mystical Body.
Those who cannot understand a Christian’s faith or reject Christianity all together; do, not know the Trinity. Worse yet, those who do not understand any faith and reject all religion; do not know God and refuse to accept His existence. This sad fact is at the foundation of religious persecution and all of the chaos which goes on in the world today. Sadly, some of today’s chaos is done by those who call themselves Christians and followers of God but like the Pharisees who had Jesus put to death, they are influenced by the evil one.
But John tells us that when God is revealed to us, we shall be like Him because we shall see Him as He is. John is talking about the last day. That is the day that God will reveal Himself as He is. Those of us who enter the Kingdom on the last day will be able to see God as He is because by making each of us a part of the Son’s Mystical Body, God has made us like Himself. That’s how much God loves us.
Follow the Good Shepherd by Choice
Gospel Commentary: John 10: 11-18
Today, Jesus tells us that He is the Good Shepherd. He defines a good shepherd as one who is willing to lay down his life for his sheep. Jesus tells us that a hired man will not do that but will allow a wolf to scatter the sheep because he is working for pay and does not care about his sheep.
In this analogy, we are the sheep, the devil is the wolf and the hired man is anyone who preaches for the sake of his own personal gain. Any preacher who fits this description is a false prophet who will never proclaim the truth within the Word because he is violating the instructions that Jesus gave the disciples when they were commissioned in Matthew 10:8b. Jesus said, “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”
A false prophet can also be a preacher who knows the Word but rejects it in part or in full and deliberately proclaims something different from the Word. Both of these false prophets are hired by the devil who; is the wolf. The teachings of a false prophet will lead us away from the truth of Jesus Christ and straight to the wolf.
But Jesus tells us that He is the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep and that His sheep know Him just as the Father knows Him and He knows the Father. This means that Jesus’ sheep are those of us who have faith in Him and listen to Him. We cannot know the Good Shepherd if we do not have faith in Him and listen to Him.
Think about it. Sheep have faith in their shepherd, they know his voice and they follow him. A shepherd will use sheepherder dogs who know his whistle to help him, but the sheep do follow the shepherd wherever he wants them to go. We can think of the Apostles and their descendants, our present-day clergy, as the helpers. They are not false prophets. They hear the truth and proclaim the truth.
Jesus said that there will be one flock and one shepherd. In other words, there is no word but His Word and there will only be one group of people who will be with Him—those who have faith in Him and listen to Him.
Jesus said that He would lay down His own life for His sheep and that the Father loves Him because He lays down His life in order to take it up again. Once again, Jesus is telling us that in order to be with Him in the next life, we must be willing to give up this life.
But the main message here as it relates to this Gospel and today’s liturgy is that God loves us so much that He sacrificed Himself in the person of the Son just so that we can be with Him.
What Jesus said next speaks of His divinity. Jesus said that no one takes His life—He lays it down on His own and He has the power to take it up again at the command of His Father. On the surface, it sounds like Jesus is only speaking of Himself, but He is not. Jesus is telling us that by God's command, we will also be raised if; we choose to obey that command.
Let’s step out of the box of worldly thought. Look into the future and ask yourself these questions: Who can take my eternal life away from me? Who has the desire to lay my life down so that it can be raised again at God’s command? In short, who has the power to keep me out of the Kingdom?
The answer to all three questions is the same: me. Only I can have my eternal life taken away from me by surrendering my life to sin. Only I can want to lay my life down so that it can be raised again at God’s command by choosing to have faith in God, loving Him, obeying Him and choosing to be with Him. Without doing these things, I will never receive His command and as a result, it is only by my own power that I do not reach the Kingdom.
We are just like sheep, but we are very different than sheep because we have the free will to choose. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, has laid down His life for our salvation. God is always there for us in the person of both the Son in the Eucharist and the Spirit within our conscience to help us in every way. But in the end, we possess the power to determine our destiny by way of our free will. We can be like Mary, our mother in heaven, and all of the saints by saying, “Yes.” Or we can give into the devil and say, “No."