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This Sunday's Programme

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4th Sunday Easter B

Sunday 21st April 2024

The Gospel Paraphrased

There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.

This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased

Jn 10: 11-19

I am the shepherd – the good one! The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.
The person who is hired is not a shepherd, the sheep are not his, so he flees when he sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep unprotected. Then the wolf snatches at the sheep and they scatter. The hired one flees simply because he is hired and doesn’t care about the sheep.
I am the good shepherd. I know mine and am known by mine just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I give my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that don’t belong to this fold. I lead these as well. They shall listen for my voice and there will be one flock, one shepherd.
The Father loves me because I give my life, which I will take up again.
No-one takes it from me rather I give it of myself. I have the power to give it and I have the power to take it up again.
This command I have received from the Father.

Psalm

The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.

This Sunday's Psalm

Ps 117: 1, 8-9,21-23,26,28-29

Acclaim God! For he is good, his mercy is forever!
It is better to trust in God
than to rely on people.
It is better to trust in God
than to rely on patronage.

I will acclaim you for you answered me
and became my salvation.
The stone which the builders rejected
is now the capstone!
This is God’s doing
and it is marvellous to see.

Blessed is the one who comes in God’s name.
May you be blessed from the house of God.
You are my God and I acclaim you
You are my God and I exalt you.
Acclaim God! For he is good, his mercy is forever.

 

Prayers

Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.

This Sunday's Prayer

Loving God, you sent Jesus to shepherd us into the mystery of your love. Guided by his Spirit, may we hear his voice calling us in love and to love in all the events of life. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.

The Commentaries Summarised

As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.

This Sunday's Commentary

There are a number of elements that form the background to this Sunday’s Gospel. Firstly there is the biblical tradition of the shepherd-leader of Israel. This image was used of David and the kings but after failure of the monarchy, the prophets looked towards a messianic figure who would truly lead Israel in the ways of God. There was another tradition that saw God as the shepherd of Israel, firstly when leading the people through the desert. Later the prophets used this image to express God’s care over the people when they were in exile.

The immediate context of this reading is a polemic between Jesus and ‘the Jews’ and ‘some Pharisees’ after the healing of the man born blind. These two groups are in actual fact the religious authorities who objected to Jesus healing on the Sabbath: he had broken their interpretation of the Law. Because they fail to see the power of God in his saving acts, they not only show that they are blind but also that they are failures as true shepherds of the people. When Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd he actually says, “I am the Shepherd, the Good One”, contrasting himself with the ones who were not.

But not all of this reading is polemical: halfway through, the tone changes. When Jesus says “I am the Good Shepherd” the second time, it is to speak of the great intimacy of love that exists between him and his followers. This intimacy is modelled on his relationship with the Father and its power is shown in Jesus’ capacity to freely give up his life and take it back again. Truly it is love stronger than death.

Exposition

Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.

This Sunday's Exposition

When heart speaks to heart, the voice of the loved one is known even across a crowded noisy space. And when the voice of love is heard, deep in our being a passion for life blossoms. Fanciful words? Spend some time watching families meet at airports and you will recognise that Jesus has drawn on a profoundly deep experience when he says that the sheep that follow him know his voice. That knowing based on love reaches into the core of our being, as it reflects the knowing of the Father and the Son – the God in whose image we have been made. That relationship is the template upon which all our loving relationships are based.

So why might we be uncertain about the voice of Jesus calling us? Maybe we are listening in the wrong place? Maybe fear stops us from drawing near? Maybe guilt makes us seek a God of vengeance? Maybe pride makes us listen to our own voice? Maybe our addictions and compulsions lead us to indulge our personal desires? Maybe, maybe…but one thing is certain. The voice of the Good Shepherd is now calling each of us by a personal name. And when we recognise it we should do what the Father told us: “Listen to him!” Listening to his voice will lead us out of the mire of the lesser, conflicting voices.

Reflection

Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.

This Sunday's Reflection

The Voice! How much is conveyed by the tone of a voice. We might think that it is the words that convey the meaning but if we think about it we realise that this is often not true. Said with kindness, harsh words can convey love. Said with disinterest, the sweetest words mean nothing, at best.

Jesus highlights this with the contrast between the Good Shepherd and the hireling. Imagine the difference in the tone of voice between the two. The Good Shepherd calls and the sheep follow for they hear love and care. The hireling may say the same words, but the sheep refuse to listen. They know the hireling is only there for personal benefit.

Each Christian has heard the voice of Jesus calling him or her. We each need to stop and retune our lives according to this call of intimate, personal, unique love. Our name, called in love, is important to Jesus – so it should be to us.

It is good to sometimes stop and listen to the tones in our own voices and to ask ourselves what they convey. Is it the tone by which Jesus calls us? The challenge the Good Shepherd gives to each of us is to convey in our voices the love we hear in his.

 

Visual Meditation

Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.

This Sunday's Visual Meditation

The image of Jesus as Good Shepherd has been a favourite since the beginnings of the Church.

– There are a number of the earliest images of Jesus  as the Good Shepherd at this page. For the first few centuries of the church’s history that was how Jesus was represented.

– In this Mosaic at Ravenna Jesus is both Lord and Good Shepherd.

This painting by Bartolome Murillo shows Jesus both as a sweet child with a sheep.

– This pencil drawing by Ralph Beyer is simplicity itself.

This print by Eric Gill also shows what depth of emotion can be achieved with simplicity.

– The traditional stained glass window is at St John’s Anglican Church, Ashfield, NSW.

Mulling Meditation

The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.

Exercising
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"

Driving
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.

This Sunday's Mulling Meditation

As you go through this week, listen to your own voice. Mull on what emotions are expressed in the tones you use. Do they gather people into the love of God? Are they indifferent or even hostile? Try to reflect in your voice the tone of love with which Jesus speaks to you.

Mirror Meditation

In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.

This Sunday's Mirror Meditation

Rest in the love of your God

When you are quiet, focus on the way Jesus calls you by name. You may feel that you haven’t heard this clearly enough to describe it but one way to ‘hear’ it is to remember the times when you have felt love or growth or joy or some other positive strong emotion that was life giving.

Go back to that moment. Feel it again. Slowly experience it and ask: what did you receive? how did you grow? That experience is part of the person Jesus is calling you to be; it is part of his loving name to you.

Respond in love to Jesus.

Rest in the love of your God.