4th SUNDAY OF EASTER (Cycle B)

Readings:
Acts 4:8-12
Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26-29
1 John 3:1-2
John 10:11-18

All Scripture passages are from the New American Bible unless designated NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation).  CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

God's divine plan for mankind is revealed in the two Testaments and that is why we reread and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy.  The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).

The Theme of the Readings: There is only Salvation in Jesus
In today's First Reading, St. Peter proclaims that there is salvation only for those who call upon the name of Jesus; His is the only name under heaven by which mankind can be saved (Acts 4:12).  He tells the religious leaders of the Jews that they, "the builders" of the Old Covenant Church, have rejected the "stone" who is Jesus the Messiah and the "cornerstone" of the New Covenant Church, quoting from today's Psalm Reading (Acts 4:11; Ps 118:22).  Jesus is the stone prophesied by Daniel that was divinely hewn from the "mountain" of the Old Covenant whose religious center was the Temple on Mt. Moriah.  He is the "stone" destined to break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever (Dan 2:44). 

In the Gospel Reading, Jesus says that He is the Good Shepherd the prophets promised to Israel (Ez 34:10-13) and the prince of the House of David who has come to shepherd His people and free them from bondage to sin and death (Ez 34:23-31).  Those who belong to Him will come to Him when they hear His voice, and He will gather them into the one flock of the promised New Covenant Church (Jer 31:31; Jn 10:4, 11, 14).  Our faith does not rest in a building like the Jerusalem Temple.  Jesus is the living foundation stone upon which the New Covenant Church is built, and those baptized into the covenant also become a part of Christ as "living stones" built into the fabric of the New and Eternal covenant in Christ Jesus (CCC 756).  As St. John writes in the Second Reading, this is the love that the Father has bestowed on us so that through Jesus Christ we will have a share in God's divine life and can be called the children of God!

The First Reading Acts 4:8-12 ~ St. Peter's 3rd discourse before the Jewish Sanhedrin
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered them, "Leaders of the people and elders: 9 If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a cripple, namely, by what means he was saved, 10 then all of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed.  11 He is 'the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.'  12 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 and John were brought before the Jewish court called the Sanhedrin for questioning.  The court was presided over by the High Priest Joseph Caiaphas, Annas the former high priest, and several other chief priests (Acts 4:5-7).  This was the same high court that condemned Jesus to death (Mt 26:57-66; Mk 14:53-64; Lk 22:66-71).

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered them, "Leaders of the people and elders ... This is St. Peter's third kerygmatic address (kerygma = Greek, "proclamation", from keryks = "herald").  Perhaps he was remembering what Jesus told him would happen to the disciples before Christ's return in glory: Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name.  It will lead to your giving testimony.  Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute  (Lk 21:12-15).  Peter was prepared for their questions because he remembered Jesus' promise that the Holy Spirit would give him the words he needed to defend himself and the Gospel (Jn 14:26; 15:26-27), and indeed Peter was "filled with the Holy Spirit."

9 If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a cripple, namely, by what means he was saved, 10 then all of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed. 
Peter begins by speaking about the crippled man he has just healed (Acts 3:1-10).  He speaks not about the physical healing that was only a "sign" but about the man's salvation through the name of the resurrected Jesus the Messiah.  St. Luke has returned to the theme of those "calling on the name of the Lord" being saved (see Acts 2:21 and 2:47).  Notice that Peter's answer to the religious leaders is a proclamation to "all Israel" in verse 10.

11 He is 'the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.'  12 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." 
And then Peter quotes loosely from Psalm 117:22 in the Greek Septuagint translation but 118:22 in the Hebrew O.T. and most English translations.  Notice that he adapts the passage to the current situation.  Psalm 118 is the last part of the Hallel psalms that were sung during the 8 days of Passover/Unleavened Bread; it was considered to be a Messianic psalm that spoke of the coming of God's "Anointed one" (Messiah) of the lineage of the great King David.  Psalms 118:26 was sung by the crowd during Jesus' triumphal procession into the city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Mt 21:9; Mk 11:9; Jn 12:13), and was quoted by Jesus as a sign of His future "coming" (Mt 23:39; Lk 19:38).

Peter makes it clear who the "builders" are in the prophetic psalm.  The religious leaders are the "builders" and Jesus is the "stone" they rejected and crucified who has become the "cornerstone" of the promised New Covenant (Jer 31:31; Lk 22:20). This is the second time St. Luke has used Psalm 118:22.  The first time was at the end of Jesus' Parable of the Wicked Tenants in Luke 20:17 when the religious leaders recognized that Jesus was addressing the quote specifically to them (Luke 20:19).  In Peter's reference, he has added the words "by you" before "builders" to make his point.  The NAB translation doesn't reflect it, but in the Greek text the word "rejected" (apodokimao) has been replaced by the word "scorned"/"treated as worthless" (exoutheneo):  'the stone scorned by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone' (Johnson, The Acts of the Apostles, page 77; IBGE, vol. IV, page 330).  Peter's point is that the religious leadership didn't just reject the Son of God but treated Him with contempt.  For references in the Gospels to this psalms see Mt 21:42; Mk 12:10; Lk 20:17.  St. Paul and St. Peter applied this passage to Jesus in Eph 2:20 and 1 Pt 2:6-7; and for an Old Testament reference to the "cornerstone" see Is 28:16, a passage that will be applied to Jesus by Peter in 1 Pt 2:4-8.

The literal translation of "cornerstone" (kephale gonias) is "head of the corner."  Many scholars suggest this means the keystone of an arch that joins the two sides (Johnson, page 78).  Whether it is the keystone of an arch or the foundation stone of a building, the meaning is clear: the Old Covenant leadership have rejected and treated with contempt the capstone essential for the restoration of the people of God and the only means for mankind's salvation (verse 12).

Jesus is the stone prophesied by Daniel that was divinely hewn from the "mountain" of the Old Covenant whose religious center was the Temple on Mt. Moriah.  He is the "stone" destined to break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever.  That is the meaning of the stone you saw hewn from the mountain without a hand being put to it, which broke in pieces the tile, iron, bronze, silver, and gold (Dan 2:44-45).  Peter courageously states there is no other way; Jesus Christ is the only path to salvation:  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 (Acts 14:12).  Our faith does not rest in a building like the Jerusalem Temple.  Jesus is the living foundation stone upon which the New Covenant Church is built, and those baptized into the covenant also become a part of Christ as "living stones" built into the fabric of the New and Eternal covenant in Christ Jesus (CCC 756).  Also see CCC 432, 452, 1507 for Jesus as the only means of mankind's salvation.

Responsorial Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28-29 ~ Jesus is the Cornerstone of the New Covenant

The response is: "The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone" or "Alleluia."
1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever. [..].  8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.  9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.
Response:
21 I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me and have been my savior.  22 The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.  23 By the LORD has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes.
Response:
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD; we bless you from the house of the LORD.  [..].  28 I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me and have been my savior.  29 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his kindness endures forever.
Response:

Psalm 113-118 is called the Great Hallel ("praise God") Psalms that recalled the Exodus liberation and was sung during the pilgrim feasts of Unleavened Bread, Weeks/Pentecost, and Tabernacles/Shelters (Ex 23:14-17; 34:18-23; Dt 16:16; 2 Chr 8:13).  Psalm 118 was a thanksgiving liturgy that accompanied a victory procession of the king and the people into the Temple precincts.  After the invocation (verse 1), the psalmist, speaking for the community, describes how the covenant people confidently seek God's help because it is better to trust Him than to trust in rulers or imperfect human beings.

In verse 21 the psalmist, speaking for the people, thanks God in advance for answering the people's petitions and being their Savior.

22 The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.  23 By the LORD has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes.  Verses 22-23 are among the most often quoted psalm verses in the New Testament.  Jesus quoted Psalm 118:22-23 when He was teaching in the Temple on what was probably Monday of His last week in Jerusalem, applying the verses to Himself in the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mt 21:42 and Lk 20:17) and explaining the verse (Mt 21:43-44; Lk 20:18), which enraged the scribes and chief priests (Mt 21:45-46; Lk 20:19).  After Jesus' Resurrection, at His trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin, St. Peter identified Jesus as the "cornerstone" of the New Covenant and the religious authorities as the "builders" who rejected Him, applying Psalm 118:22 to Christ in our First Reading in Acts 4:11.  Peter quoted Psalm 118:22 again, identifying Jesus as "the cornerstone" in 1 Peter 2:7.  St. Paul will also speak of Jesus as the "cornerstone" in Romans 9:33 by referring to a related prophecy in Isaiah 28:16b and in Ephesians 2:20.  He wrote that the household of God is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone [cornerstone].  Finally, Psalm 118:23 is fulfilled in the works of Christ that are "wonderful in our eyes" (verse 23) for He has made it possible for us to receive the gift of eternal salvation.

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD; we bless you from the house of the LORD.  [..].  28 I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me and have been my savior.  29 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his kindness endures forever.
The covenant people recognized Psalm 118, especially verses 22-28, as a messianic psalm that promised the coming of the LORD's anointed.  On Palm Sunday the Jewish crowd quoted verse 26 and applied it as a prophetic announcement of the coming of Jesus the Messiah (Mt 21:9).  Jesus also quoted verse 26 after He denounced the failed religious leaders of the covenant people (Mt 23:1-33), condemned His sinful generation to divine judgment (Mt 23:34-36), and uttered a lament over the future destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (Mt 23:37-38).  Then, in Matthew 23:39 Jesus said: "I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"  Jesus was saying that Israel will not see Him again until He comes in glory for the Final Judgment (Acts 1:11; 1 Thes 4:16), but it also has special significance for Catholics in that we say these very words just prior to the revelation of Christ in the Eucharist, our very act of giving "thanks" (in Latin eucharistia is the virture of "thanks/thanksgiving"; from the Greek eucharistia, gratitude; from eu = "good" + charizesthai = "to show favor").  It is both a profession our belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and our belief that He will return in glory to claim His Bride, the Church.  It is when we "give thanks" and we acknowledge Christ as our Lord and Savior who's "kindness endures forever" (verses 28-29)

The Second Reading 1 John 3:1-2 ~ Children of God
1 See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.  Yet so we are.  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  2 Beloved, we are Gods children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.  We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  3 Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.

In chapter 3 St. John contemplates the wonderful gift of divine sonship (filiation) that makes baptized Christians children of God.  When John mentions "the world," he is referring to those who do not belong to Christ but belong to the world that is opposed to God's plan for saving humanity through the sacrifice of Christ.  The world did not "know" or understand Him and so we must understand that the "world" cannot "know" or understand us.  We are in the world, but we are not part of the world (Jn 15:18-19).

The children of Israel were collectively sons and daughters of God through their covenant relationship with Yahweh that was ratified at Mt. Sinai (Ex chapter 24), but Christians are sons and daughters in a unique way that was not available under the Old Sinai Covenant.  Under the Sinai Covenant, the Israelites remained children in the family of Adam who were banned from entrance into heaven because of the "original sin" they inherited from our original parents (CCC 390, 397, 416-17, 536).  They were, however, the "firstborn" sons and daughters in rank among the children of the nations in the family of Adam because of their covenant union with God (Ex 4:22), and since they were means through which God chose to preserve the "promised seed" (Gen 3;15) through which He would bring about mankind's redemption through an Israelite mother and her son.  But unlike the Old Covenant "created" sons and daughters of God, in the Sacrament of Christian Baptism, we have been reborn: born "again" or born "from above" by water and the Spirit (Jn 3:3-5), and we have been "begotten" (1 Pt 1:3; 1 Jn 5:1, 18), not created like other creatures, by God as His sons and daughters who are infused with His divine life (2 Pt 1:4).  Being a divine son/daughter of God is an essential aspect of a Christian's life and is a supernatural dignity that is the result of an indefinable intimacy with God as Divine Father.

St. Paul speaks of this divine sonship in terms of adoption: For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.  For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, Abba, "Father!" The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him (Rom 8:14-17).

2 Beloved, we are Gods children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.  We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  3 Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.
This gift of divine filiation cannot be fully experienced by Christians until it reaches its final expression when we are untiled with the Most Holy Trinity in eternal life.  It is then that we will see Him "as he is," "face to face" (verse 2; 1 Cor 13:12).  As St. John wrote in his Gospel from Jesus' final prayer to the Father during His Last Supper Discourse: ... Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ (Jn 17:3).  In the meantime, it is our Christian duty as sons and daughters of God to keep ourselves "pure" and free of sin as "he is pure," in preparation for that final transition into the life of the Most Holy Trinity.

The Gospel of John 10:11-18 ~ Jesus is the Good Shepherd
11 Jesus said: "I am the good shepherd.  A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  12 A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them.  13 This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.  14 I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.  16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.  17 This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.  I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.  This command I have received from my Father."

Jesus identifies Himself as the "good shepherd" using the words "I AM" (without a predicate nominative) in verses 11 and 14.  Jesus identifies Himself with the significant and symbolic words "I AM", ego ami, which reminds us of Yahweh's revelation of Himself to Moses 3 times as I AM in Exodus 3:13-14.  In John's Gospel Jesus will use "I AM" 26 times and in 7 different metaphors that are each used with a predicate nominative, and 4 "I AM" statements with a predicate nominative:

"I AM" with predicate nominative "I AM" without predicate nominative
1. 6:35

"I AM the bread of life"

1. 8:24 "...if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.
2. 8:12 "I AM the light of the world" 2. 8:28 When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I AM (he)*
3. 10:7 "I AM the gate for the sheep" 3. 8:58 Amen, amen, I tell you, before Abraham ever was, I AM.
4. 10:11, 14 "I AM the good shepherd" 4. 13:19 I tell you this now, before it happens, so that when it does happen you may believe that I AM (he)*
5. 11:25 "I AM the resurrection and the life"  
6. 14:6 "I AM the way and the  truth and the life"
7. 15:1 "I AM the true vine"
* the pronoun "He" is not in the Greek text in these verses.  Michal Hunt copyright 2003

The people listening to Jesus would have recalled the prophecies of the 6th century BC prophet Ezekiel from the Book of Ezekiel chapter 34.  The would have especially remembered verses 9-12 where God promised to punish the "false shepherds" of Israel and to come Himself to shepherd the sheep of His flock, and also verses 23-24 where He promised to appoint one shepherd over His people who is a Davidic prince:

Note that when LORD or GOD is written in capital letters it represents the Divine Name YHWH (with vowels rendered "Yahweh") in the Hebrew translation and Ego AMI (I AM) in the Greek translation of the Old Testament.

The future event that Jesus is speaking of in verse 11 is His death.  St. John Chrysostom writes: "...he is speaking of his passion, making it clear this would take place for the salvation of the world and that he would go to it freely and willingly" (Homilies on St. John, 59.3).   Pope St. Gregory the Great commented on this passage: "He did what he said he would do; he gave his life for his sheep, and he gave his body and blood in the Sacrament to nourish with his flesh the sheep he had redeemed" (In Evangelia homiliae, 14).

This is the first of 5 times that St. John will repeat Christ's willingness to lay down His life for His sheep in this passage:
1. 10:11 I am the good shepherd.  A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
2. 10:15b ...and I lay down my life for the sheep.
3. 10:17 This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
4. 10:18a No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.
5. 10: 18b I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again...

In the context of the shepherd caring for the sheep analogy, Jesus' statement is shocking to the crowd listening to Him.  A good shepherd is expected to defend and protect the flock, but he is not expected to die for the sheep.

Although it may seem contradictory to us that Jesus calls Himself both the "Good Shepherd" in verses 11-18 as well as the "Gate" in verses 7 and 9, this sheepfold imagery was very familiar to Jesus' audience.  It is still common in many parts of the world, as it was in 1st century AD Judea, to bring a number of flocks of sheep together at night into one enclosed sheepfold where they could be watched over by a few shepherds who protected them from predators.  It was common for stone-enclosed sheepfolds not to have a gate, so the shepherd would sleep in the opened entrance to the sheepfold to protect the sheep.  The shepherd in effect used his own body as the protective "gate" to the sheepfold.  In the morning when the other shepherds returned, the gateway would be opened and each shepherd would call his own sheep.  Each animal knew the sound of its own shepherd's voice, and so they would come to him to be led out of the pen. Jesus' body will become the "gate" into the sheepfold.  It is from His body on the cross that water and blood will flow: the water and blood of the Church in baptism and Eucharist.

In verse 12 Jesus contrasts the shepherd who owns the sheep of his flock as opposed to a man only hired to guard the sheep. The "hired man" only works for his wage.  He does not have any emotional attachment to the sheep and in times of inconvenience, danger or risk will leave or not live up to the task at hand.  The "hired man" is the priest who does not unselfishly "shepherd" God's flock.  He avoids unpopular issues and does not teach on controversial topics but leaves the flock to fall into sin. The "wolf" is the world in opposition of the Word of God.  Unlike the hired man, the good shepherd is the one who seeks Christ's glory.  He is the priest who does not fear to reprove sinners.  St. Peter addressed this difference in his first letter to the Universal Church: So I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.  Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.  Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock.  And when the chief shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory (1 Pt 5:1-4).

St. Jose Maria Escriva wrote: "The holiness of Christ's Spouse has always been shown, as it can be seen today, by the abundance of good shepherds.  But our Christian faith, which teaches us to be simple, does not bid us be simple-minded.  There are hirelings who keep silent, and there are hirelings who speak with words which are not those of Christ.  That is why, if the Lord allows us to be left in the dark even in little things, if we feel that our faith is not firm, we should go to the good shepherd.  He enters by the door as of right.  He gives his life for others and wants to be in word and behavior a soul in love.  He may be a sinner too, but he trusts always in Christ's forgiveness and mercy" (Christ is Passing By, 34).

Jesus said: 14 "I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep."
For a second time Jesus identifies Himself of the "good shepherd" of Ezekiel chapter 34, and for the second time promises to die for His sheep. 

I know mine and mine know me...  This is the essence of a relationship with Christ.  This is knowledge in the sense of the personal "covenant relationship."  In the Biblical sense, "knowledge" is not simply the conclusion of an intellectual process, but it is the fruit of an experience, a personal encounter.  Knowledge of God is an intimate association through the covenant relationship.  In Hosea 2:21-22 the prophet speaks of the day when Yahweh will redeem Israel as His Bride and when she will call Yahweh "my husband" and no longer call Him "my baal," which is the address of a concubine or a slave to her master in Hosea 2:18-20/16-18 NJB: I shall betroth you in uprightness and justice, and faithful love and tenderness.  Yes, I shall betroth you to myself in loyalty and in the knowledge of Yahweh.  Knowledge of Yahweh and hesed, in Hebrew = faithful covenant love, cannot be separated.  This knowledge is not merely intellectual acknowledgement.  God "makes himself known" to humans when He enters into covenant with them and shows His love [hesed = faithful covenant love] for them by the blessings He confers.  In this intimate relationship, God's Covenant people "know" Him when they faithfully observe the commands and prohibitions of God's covenant, when they show thankfulness for His gifts, and when they return love for love in a marital covenant relationship between God and His Bride the Church (see Prov 2:5; Is 11:2; and 58:2).  Jesus takes this definition of divine love further when He calls us not just to love in the context of the covenant but to give ourselves sacrificially and unselfishly as He gave Himself for the Church, redefining the Greek word agape, which meant spiritual love, to mean in the Christian context of self-sacrificial love (Jn 15:11-14; also see Rom 12:1-2).

Jesus said: 16 "I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd." 
There cannot be two covenants.  There can only be one covenant and one Church because there can only be one Bride (see Many Religions—One Covenant, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger/ Pope Benedict XVI; Heb 8:13).  Israel the Bride of Yahweh is transformed into the new Israel, the Bride of Christ, when she is born from His side at the cross in the water and the blood just as Eve, Adam's bride, came from the side of her bridegroom Adam.  Adam was not willing to die for his bride when confronted by Satan, but Christ offers Himself as the perfect sacrifice for His Bride, the Church.  It is the promise of Hosea 2:18-20 and the promise of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31.  There is one flock and one Shepherd who is Jesus Christ, the supreme Shepherd over the one universal Church (Heb 13:20).  The spiritual authority of those who shepherd the flock as Christ's representatives (Peter and the other Apostles) is authority that comes directly from Christ who gives them a share in His saving mission (see Jn 21:15-17 and CCC 553 and 754). 

But who are the "other sheep" who will become part of this New Covenant fold?  The "other sheep" are the Gentiles who will be gathered into the Messiah's flock alongside the restored sheep of Israel (Jn 11:52).  The "other sheep' come into the covenant relationship through Christ.  All of these who listen to His voice will be gathered into the one flock that Jesus leads to eternal life.  This is Zechariah's prophecy of the sheep who will be led by their shepherd who break out of the sheepfold and are led by their king (Zec 13:7-9; 14:9).  Jesus is both the shepherd and the king of David's line.

17 "This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.  I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.  This command I have received from my Father."
This statement is proof of Jesus' divinity.  Only God Himself could have such absolute power over life and death.  This prophecy is fulfilled on the cross with His sacrifice and in His Resurrection after 3 days (as the ancients counted) as Jesus foretold (Mt 20:17-19; Mk 10:32-34; Lk 18:31-33). 

This is the command I have received from my Father.  "The desire to embrace his Father's plan of redeeming love inspired Jesus' whole life, for his redemptive passion was the very reason of his Incarnation..." (CCC# 607).   In 10:17-18 Jesus says: "The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.  I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.  This command I have received from my Father." The sacrifice of Jesus for the redemption of the whole world expressed His unity of will and His loving communion with God the Father.  At the end of the parable of the Lost Sheep in Matthew 18:14, Jesus states that the Father's love excludes no one: it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.   In this statement, Jesus affirms that He came to give his life as a ransom for many (Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45), and that His sacrifice is not limited but is intended for all of humanity.  The Church, following the teaching of the Apostles, affirms that Jesus died for all humanity without exception: "There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer" (CCC# 605).

Jesus, the Good Shepherd is calling you.  Do you recognize His voice as he speaks to you in the Liturgy of the Word, and do you recognize that you follow Him as your make your procession up to the altar to receive Him in the Eucharist?  Then rejoice, for the "stone" that the "builders" rejected is our resurrected Lord and our King who leads the sheep of His flock on the path to salvation!

Catechism References:

Acts 4:10 (CCC 597); 4:11 (CCC 756); 4:12 (CCC 432, 452, 1507)
Psalm 118:22 (CCC 587, 756); 118:26 (CCC 559)
1 John 3:1 (CCC 1692); 3:2 (CCC 163, 1023, 1161, 1720, 2519, 2772)
John 10:11-15 (CCC 754); 10:11 (CCC 553, 754); 10:16 (CCC 60); 10:17-18 (CCC 614, 649); 10:17 (CCC 606); 10:18 (CCC 609)

Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2015