Our readings this Sunday and all through the Easter season give us a front row seat into the birth and early development of Christ's Church - How cool is that?
Our first reading (Acts of the Apostles 2:14, 36-41) is an excerpt from Peter's speech to those gathered in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. It is a glimpse into the human / divine relationship at work building the early Church -- the faith, grit and bravery of the apostles and disciples powered by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We follow our shepherd because we know his voice.
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed: "Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, "What are we to do, my brothers?" Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call." He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.
In our Gospel reading (John 10:1-10), we hear the beginning of Jesus' "good shepherd discourse" where he used the allegory of the shepherd, sheep and the gate to contrast himself with the Pharisees of the day who did not recognize him and sought to lead the sheep astray - for their own gain.
Jesus said: "Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers." Although Jesus used this figure of speech, the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them. So Jesus said again, "Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly."
In our Epistle reading (1 Peter 2:20-25), St. Peter reminds us at what great cost Christ paid for our sins and for our redemption, we the lost sheep who have returned to the "guardian of our souls". It is an image we would be good to capture every time we receive the Holy Eucharist - the cost at which Christ gives his body, blood, soul and divinity to us - his total and complete self. We are called to do the same.
Beloved: If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
This is such a special time of year; we should savor every word that teaches us what great mystery our faith and our salvation is, and at what great cost by Jesus and by the disciples and martyrs who gave their complete selves to build Christ's Church on earth. We are the recipients of that gift. Praise God!