This Sunday the Church invites us to look back at the Last Supper to the words Jesus spoke to the Apostles after Judas had left the room. The words he speaks to them are words of tenderness and affection. He calls them little children; an expression which has a very gentle and endearing tone to it. Presumably he means that in comparison to his own complete knowledge of how things really are the Apostles only have a hesitant and partial knowledge of what is actually going on.
This Sunday is traditionally known as Good Shepherd Sunday since in each year of the Liturgical Cycle an extract from the tenth chapter of St John’s Gospel is read. This chapter gives us the teaching of Jesus to his disciples about his role as the Good Shepherd. It is a particularly wonderful image and down the centuries Christ has often been depicted in Christian art as the Good Shepherd; often he is portrayed as carrying a lamb on his shoulders or leading a flock of sheep.
The Gospel today focuses on Peter and it is a most interesting one. This particular extract is sometimes used in the ceremony of the installation of a Pope. At his installation it is solemnly read to the new Pope as a sort of warning at the start of his important new ministry.
There are two resurrection appearances by Jesus recorded in today’s Gospel. The first occurs on the very day of the resurrection itself. Jesus has already appeared in the morning to Mary Magdalene who mistook him for a gardener and then in the evening of that same day he appears to the Apostles who are hiding in a room somewhere. We are not sure if this is the same room in which they celebrated the Last Supper although it is popularly thought to be one and the same room. However, John does not actually specify which room he is talking about.
This morning we celebrate the great feast of Easter. It is the high-point of the liturgical year. We commemorate the anniversary of the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Of course, this is something we do every week when on Sunday, the first day of the week, we celebrate the Eucharist as a whole community. Jesus rose on the first day of the week and so we keep it as our day of rest.
Tonight we celebrate the central doctrine of our faith –the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We do so by lighting the Easter Fire and by making the Exsultet Proclamation. We listen also to selections from scripture containing the essential elements of salvation history.
Today we come to the most sombre moment in the celebration of the Pascal Mystery because today is the day when we mark the death of Jesus on the hill of Calvary. As on every Good Friday we have just heard read to us the eloquent account from the Gospel of John of the events leading up to and surrounding the death of Jesus.
This evening at mass we commemorate the institution of the Eucharist by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper on the night before he died for us. This is, of its nature, a very solemn occasion but don’t think of solemnity as stuffiness for it is indeed the very opposite. What we celebrate tonight is something truly joyous and enriching, for the Eucharist is the very life-blood of the Church.
We have just had the very long reading from St Luke’s account of the Passion of Christ and on Good Friday we will hear the version to be found in St John’s Gospel. Both are very moving and give us an enormous amount of material for meditation. It would be good to pray and think about Christ’s Passion very often in the coming week.
It may surprise you but the wonderful story of the Woman Caught in Adultery set before us today is not included anywhere in the most ancient manuscripts of the Gospels. It only appears in written form from the fourth century onwards. Despite this the scholars tell us that it is a much older story and was known by Christians from the earliest times
Father Alex McAllister SDS
Parish Priest of
St Thomas à Becket