The spirit propels Christianity forward
In each of today’s readings, we are invited to recognize Christ’s resurrection not only as the guarantee of our salvation, but also as a reality that transforms how we live and how we serve others every day.
‘A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.’ (Jn 10:11)
What are the implications of belief in salvation through Christ?
How can you help people to know Christ?
How do you deal with rejections or misunderstandings?
In the first reading, Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit. References to the Holy Spirit in Acts are noteworthy, as the Spirit guides, empowers and propels the Christian movement forward. Peter speaks boldly and directly to rulers, elders and scribes in Jerusalem.
The context for Peter’s speech is the day after his arrest. Peter had been arrested for healing a disabled person at the temple gate and for preaching that it happened on account of Jesus and the resurrection (Acts 3:1-10, 4:1-3). In today’s reading, we hear Peter’s public statement on the matter. He reaffirms that his power to heal was not from himself; rather, it came from Jesus Christ: “In his name this man stands before you healed.” Peter likewise proclaims that salvation is because of Christ’s resurrection. In his speech, Peter shows a clarity of insight that he often lacked in the Gospels. He more fully understands and is now able to teach others about Christ.
The second reading, from 1 John, builds on the idea of knowledge and understanding. The sermon talks about what it means to be children of God, who might have to contend with a world that lacks understanding. The sermon offers a reminder that echoes Peter’s speech, that the world did not know Christ, so it might not recognize his followers. Despite this, 1 John offers consolation, noting that understanding and revelation will come that will help more people to know Christ.
In the Gospel reading, from John, Jesus teaches his followers to understand his forthcoming death using the story of the good shepherd. Jesus says that unlike a person hired to watch over flocks, a good shepherd watches and is willing to give his life to protect his sheep from wolves. The shepherd is personally invested in the safety and well-being of the flock because they belong to him. In the story, the shepherd represents Jesus, and the sheep are his followers.
Notably, Jesus emphasizes the selflessness of the shepherd, insisting that he volunteers to protect his flock: “No one takes it [life] from me, but I lay it down on my own.” Jesus uses the story to teach truths that might be difficult for his followers to accept, expressing his willingness to die and declaring his connection to the Father.
Jesus’ sacrifice is a sign of his love and devotion to the world, and it is a revelation of his relationship to the Father: “This is why the Father loves me…. I have the power to lay it [life] down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”
As we continue through the Easter season and near the feast of Pentecost, we can draw on today’s readings for important insights about the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the life of the church. Likewise, we can reflect on what belief in the resurrection means in our lives and the importance of Christ’s sacrifice for the salvation of all.