4th Sunday Easter C
Sunday 8th May 2022
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
When Jesus was walking in the Temple at the Feast of Dedications, the Jews surrounded him and demanded that he declare whether he was the Christ or not. Jesus replied, “…You do not believe me because you are no sheep of mine.”
This Sunday’s Reading.
Jn 10: 27-30
Jesus said, ‘My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me.
I give them eternal life and they will never perish for no-one can snatch them out of my hand.
My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than all and no-one is able to snatch them out of the hand of the Father.
The Father and I are one.’
The Jews again took up stones with which to stone him.
The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.
This Sunday's Psalm
Ps 99: 1-3, 5
Shout and acclaim your God, all the earth!
Serve your God with rejoicing.
Come before his face singing with joy.
Know this: The Lord is God indeed.
He made us, not we, ourselves.
We are his people, sheep of his pasture.
God is good.
His mercy is everlasting.
His faithfulness for every generation.
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 Father, let me attune my heart to the voice of your Son. As I listen to his voice, may I align my life with his teaching on love and so radiate to the world the life of you Spirit. I ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear me.
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
The reading for this Sunday’s Gospel comes from a transition passage between the cure of the man born blind with its subsequent discourse on the Good Shepherd and the story of the Resurrection of Lazarus. In the response of the man born blind we see the proper response of one who hears the word of Jesus and acts on it. Throughout his subsequent questioning and eventual expulsion, the man remains faithful to the sign he experienced in this healing and becomes, in himself, a sign of a follower of the Good Shepherd. Now, some months later, Jesus is again in the Temple at the Feast of Dedication, a feast celebrating the rededication of the Temple by the Maccabees after its desecration. On Solomon’s portico in the Court of the Gentiles, he is waylaid by ‘the Jews’ who attack him by demanding that he state clearly whether he is the Messiah, the Christ or not. The reading we have in the Gospel is Jesus’ initial response to their attack. His response shifts the centre of gravity for the words and proof that they are demanding to the level of the heart. One who believes, and by implication believes that he is the Messiah, believes because there is such an understanding in the heart. Such faith comes not from the person concerned but is given by the Father. The text which immediately follows this Sunday’s Gospel states the effect that Jesus’ words had on these attackers: ‘The Jews fetched stones to stone him.’ The situation only escalates from there, until Jesus eludes their clutches and escapes. But the Gospel author notes that many wondered about the signs Jesus had given and believed in him.
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
Discernment is an integral part of every Christian’s life. Much as we may wish to have a clear set of rules and guidelines by which to live, life doesn’t happen that way. Even in the best of situations, we may have to choose between differing ‘goods’. More often, we have to work to figure out what might be best in a situation, weighing up the pros and cons. Sometimes even, we have to choose what is the least worst in a situation. Then given all that, when we finally make our choices, live by them, we find life changes. As one homilist memorably put it, ‘When we finally get our act together, we find that God has changed the scene.’ God is trying to teach us something by this constant discombobulation: we are not to rely on rules and regulations, or on other people or institutions, or even on ourselves but we are to rely on God alone, listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd calling us in each situation. Rules, regulations, people, institutions are there to help us, not to rule us.
Jesus, when he gave this teaching in this Sunday’s Gospel, was not in the midst of a calm attentive crowd but rather a hostile group that would try to stone him as he finished speaking to them. Still he tries to maintain the dialogue with those who want to shout him down and destroy him. Only when they actually try to arrest him, does he withdraw – his time had not yet come. What we don’t hear read in this Sunday’s excerpt is the ‘discernment’ Jesus’ other listeners were making. They heard his words and compared them with his signs and started wondering in an open manner about the truth Jesus was offering. What those listeners did, we too have to do. Most of us do not have the luxury of discerning in quiet calm situations. We do it in the midst of mess and muddle, having to compare and contrast differing voices. There is only one thing of which we can be sure. The Good Shepherd will be somewhere there, calling us, beckoning us to the fullness of his life.
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
When we hear the words in this Sunday’s Gospel, we can easily imagine the Andante movement of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony providing the background music…ah, sweetness and light. It couldn’t be further from the truth. On a cold winter’s day on a portico of the Courtyard of the Gentiles, with the noise of the Temple market in the background – a market Jesus will soon clear angrily – he is walking up and down, perhaps trying to get warm. There, his enemies surround him and they come for no good. After all the signs he has given them, they demand that he state clearly who he is. This is not so that they might become his followers. Oh, no. They want evidence to use against him. And what is his reply – ‘Listen with your heart!’ A parent who had lost a child in a milling crowd knows what he means. When our hearts are attuned to the voice of the ones we love we can hear them in the midst of turmoil and distraction. Conversely, if our hearts are not attuned, everything we hear is heard with a dead ear. Such understanding, or lack of it, occurs not on the level of words but on the level of being. When we understand Jesus with the heart, God has entered into our depths and made us open to understand the words and signs that Jesus has offered.
This openness to Jesus’ voice is a gift we have been given but it is a gift we need to cultivate. Firstly, we need to believe that Jesus can cry out and speak to our hearts in the mess and muddle of our lives, even in conflicts we may experience. Secondly, we need to recognise that he has a special voice for each of us. We need to be still and listen the tone that is reserved for each of us individually. We may come together as a Church community but we are drawn, nurtured and loved as unique individuals. Finally we need to be ready to hear how Jesus will speak in this tone – today and each day of our lives.
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
- This is James Tissot’s painting of Jesus walking in the Portico of Solomon. (click red text)
- This fresco of a pastoral scene is from the Catacombs. (click red text)
- This is a Pinterest site offering a number of paintings of The Good shepherd. (click red text)
- Good Will Hunting
- The Grapes of Wrath
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.
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!"
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, mull on how you react in confrontational situations. If you tend to either withdraw or get dawn in negatively, can you imagine how Jesus would act in such a situation? Can you work out how you could hear his voice?
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.
The relationship God has with each one of us is unique. Consider the times and ways in which God speaks to you in your life. If you had to give a name to the differing tones you have heard, what would they be? As you consider the differing ways God’s speaks to you, can you recognise the ‘voice’ God has for you?
Rest in the love of your God.
Suggestions for the Programme
The elements of the programme can be used in any way that helps your prayer. The suggestions below are fairly simple ways of using this programme.
Become conscious of your God
Hymn or poem
Reading of Gospel text
Mulling over a reflection
Become conscious of your God
Reading of Gospel text and reflection
The programme can also be used for Staff Prayer. How you may put together such a prayer would be influenced largely by the size and dynamics of your staff. For example, a smaller staff group might be able to use discussion of a movie as a way of exploring the meaning of a Gospel.
A painting illustrating the Gospel could be displayed on an interactive board
Reading of the Gospel
Invitation for share reflections
Reading of part of the Gospel
One or two of the mulling themes
Time for reflection
- Like A Shepherd by Bob Dufford.
- The Lord’s my Shepherd Traditional
- Because the Lord Is My Shepherd by Christopher Walker
- Shepherd Me, O God by Marty Haugen