It is “Good Shepherd Sunday,” but beware! There is a dark theme in the readings. In the first reading from Acts, Paul and Barnabas are treated with “violent abuse” and “expelled” from Antioch in Pisidia. In the second reading from Revelation, those standing before the Lamb in white robes “have survived the time of great distress.” And behind the consoling words of our Gospel from John, we see the Shepherd protecting the lambs from perishing, and from being taken out of the Father’s hand. Persecution was a present and pressing reality in years when our Scriptures were being written. It wasn’t always being thrown to lions by emperors. More often it was rifts between religious believers and family members in conflict about which was the “true belief.” Being a believer then and now brings suffering with it. Today it’s also not mostly lions, but perhaps ridicule. Perhaps it is losing friends when we refuse to just go along for the ride instead of living by Christian values. Perhaps it is being ignored or ostracized after we speak up about something not so good. It would be nice if after Easter we got a break from this message about the suffering that is part of every Christian’s life, wouldn’t it? Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:10). We have a good Shepherd indeed because we have a Shepherd who knows what persecution and suffering are. And that is just what we need when little or big persecution comes into our lives.
– Blog entry by Sister Mary Garascia