On this the Fourth Sunday of Easter in all three years of the liturgical cycle we get an extract from the tenth chapter of St John’s Gospel in which Jesus tells his disciples that he is the Good Shepherd. It is for this reason that it is often called Good Shepherd Sunday and is kept as a day of prayer for priestly and religious vocations.
The liturgy of the last two Sundays have presented us with Gospel readings from St John; but this Sunday we now switch to St Luke. There are differences between the accounts of the various Gospel writers but they have enough in common for us to realise that they do not differ in essentials but merely in perspective.
Whenever you see a picture of St Thomas the Apostle he is almost always represented as touching the wound in Christ’s side. But, in fact, the Gospel does not record him actually ever having done this.
Today we celebrate the most important of all the Christian Feasts, the Resurrection. But this cannot be isolated from what has gone before. Actually the three great feasts of Holy Week are all of a piece: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday and they should not really be seen in isolation from each other.
In this solemn liturgy we celebrate the highlight of the liturgical year which is this Vigil marking the anniversary of the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
In the Catholic Church we regard Good Friday as a day of mourning. In our liturgy we recall Christ’s arrest, his trial, the scourging and his journey to Golgotha. Then we wait by the Cross identifying with Christ’s last agony and experiencing his death. As we do these things we also think about our own sorrows, especially those that may await us at the end of our life and in a salutary way we consider our own death.
There are very few occasions in the Roman Missal when the rubrics give an instruction as to what must be preached. In fact, I think Maundy Thursday is the only occasion when such an instruction is given. It says: ‘The homily should explain the principal mysteries which are commemorated in this mass: the institution of the Eucharist, the institution of the priesthood and Christ's commandment to love.’ Well if you've got all night…!
Today as we began our procession we heard the account from Mark’s Gospel of how Jesus entered Jerusalem and was proclaimed as the Messiah by his disciples and the ordinary people.
In listening to the words of today’s Gospel we see that Jesus realises he is coming very close to the cataclysmic events that were to become the hinge points of the whole of human history: his own death and resurrection.
The readings today are all about salvation. The extract from the Book of Chronicles gives us an account of the great exile known as the Babylonian Captivity that occurred in 586 BC.