Fourth Sunday of Lent: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Ps 23; 1 Pt 2:20b-25; Jn 10:1-10
“The whole House of Israel can be certain that God made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.” Peter’s address at Pentecost concluded with the proclamation of the Risen Jesus as Lord and Christ. The title of the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah, pointed to Jesus as the realisation of every longing for salvation. The title “Lord” called for the willing surrender of sinful lives to the power of his resurrection.
Those who heard Peter’s words responded with a simple question. “What must we do, brothers?”
Their question articulated the challenge that the Resurrection presents to every believer. We cannot remain impassive in the presence of our Risen Lord. In prayer we ask ourselves: “What must we do?”
What must we do to allow Jesus to be the Christ, the healing and redemption of our lives? In lives of conflicting and sometimes sinful loyalties, what must we do proclaim the Risen Christ as the Lord informing every loyalty?
The first Letter of Peter outlined the life to be lived by those who would witness to the Resurrection by the conduct of their lives. A resurrection faith does not ignore the cross. Christ took the suffering of the world to himself, thereby giving a new meaning to the crosses that we must bear. “He was bearing our faults in his own body on the cross, so that we might die to our faults and live for holiness.” The whole of life, every joy and suffering, becomes a communion with the Lord, allowing us to die with him so as to live for holiness.
What Peter described as dying to our faults and living for holiness cannot be achieved in isolation, however good our intentions. Such a life must draw strength from a living communion with Christ as our Risen Lord. Jesus implied such a communion when he spoke of himself as the Good Shepherd, the gate guarding the sheepfold. A sheepfold at the time of Jesus was a kind of stockade with a single entrance. The sheep were safe in the sheepfold because the shepherd quite literally became the gate, placing himself in the space that controlled all coming and going.
If our individual lives, and indeed the life of the universal Church, are to be safe, then we must allow Christ to be the gatekeeper. “I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe: he will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture.”
Jesus went on to explain the dangers presented by those who entered the sheepfold other than through the gate, the shepherd himself. “All others who have come are thieves and brigands. The thief comes only to steal and destroy.”
We must be realistic in determining the gateways that control our lives and form our attitudes. Pride and selfishness are sin’s most obvious gateways into the heart. There are many others. By describing himself as the Gate to the Sheepfold, the Risen Lord proclaims himself as the only safe refuge for the soul. When we acknowledge Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life, we choose to walk in his path, to be governed by his truth. This is not a blind obedience. It is rooted in prayer, the relationship described by Jesus when he spoke of the sheep that heard and recognised his voice, the sheep that he called to himself. “Anyone who enters through me will be safe: he will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture.”