Father Valan Arockiaswamy

Father Valan

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Close Dear Audience,
For better understanding of the spiritual message behind this homily I kindly remind you to first read and contemplate the biblical texts before reading or listening to my preaching - a human reflection on the Word of God!

Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year A)

May 3, 2020 Views 75 Listen 2 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles (2:14a, 36-41)

Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed: "Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, "What are we to do, my brothers?" Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promised is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call." He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Those who accepted this message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6)

(R) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures He gives me repose; beside restful waters He leads me; He refreshes my soul. (R)

He guides me in right paths for his name's sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage. (R)

You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (R)

Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the First Letter of Saint Peter (2:20b-25)

Beloved: If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.


A reading from the Gospel according to John (10:1-10)

Jesus said: "Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognized the voice of strangers." Although Jesus used this figure of speech, the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them.

So Jesus said again, "Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly."

(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
(R) Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


Psalm 23, often called the "Shepherd's Psalm" is one of the most popular and loved passages in the Bible. According to tradition, it was written by King David, one of the earliest kings of Israel and an ancestor of Jesus. A lot of people throughout the world have found inspiration, encouragement, comfort and peace in this particular psalm. And it is frequently used in Christian funeral and memorial services.

There is a story about two men who were invited to recite this psalm at a banquet. One was a famous, eloquent, and skilful orator. He recited the psalm - "The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want. In verdant pastures, he gives me repose; beside restful waters He leads me; he refreshes my soul..." His recitation was so powerful that when he finished, the people applauded and cheered loudly, and even asked for an encore so they might hear his wonderful voice again. Then the other man, who was much older, repeated the same psalm. But when he had finished, there was complete silence in the room. There was no applause, no sound whatsoever. Instead, the people were deep in thought, devotion, and prayer. In amazement, a woman leaned over to the orator and asked him why there was such a difference. The orator replied, "The difference is: I know the Psalm 23 but my friend knows the Shepherd."

Friends, what about you? Do you truly know the Shepherd? Do you recognize his voice? Do you really believe that he is a shield around you? If you don't, then, you have an opportunity to hear an important message from today's gospel that is, how exactly you can be saved, John (10:1-10). If you do know the Shepherd, recognize his voice, and truly believe in his love, then you can be assured of his care and protection, and you can be assured that he will make your life more abundant and rich.

To understand the gospel, it is necessary, first, to go back to the previous chapter of the gospel of John. In the ninth chapter, John tells the story of the healing of the man born blind, John (9:1-38). The disciples asked Jesus whether it was the man's sin or his parent's sin that had caused his blindness. Jesus replied it was neither but God was using the blind man to manifest His glory. In fact, Jesus not only gave the man physical sight but also the gift of faith or spiritual insight. Because in the rest of the story we see the blind man gradually coming to a full understanding of Jesus' identity. He went from seeing the man called Jesus, to calling Him a prophet, to recognizing Him as a Man of God, and to addressing and worshipping Him as Lord. Not only was he healed but his life was also drastically changed. But the proud Pharisees did not believe in Jesus. They interrogated the man and his parents, and asked them to denounce Jesus.

So, Jesus used the analogy of a shepherd to describe his role and explain who he is and what he is doing. Such stories and illustrations were familiar to the people of Jerusalem and Judea because the Jews in Jesus' day were first shepherds and then farmers. Moreover, in the Old Testament era, sheep were often used to illustrate people and shepherds to illustrate leaders, such as God and kings. Many of the Old Testament figures were shepherds. Most prominent among them were Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David and the prophet Amos. So, the people who listened to Jesus must have understood the temporal, earthly aspect of shepherding and caring for a flock but they also must have understood the illustration of God's care for His own people.

In today's text, Jesus uses two sets of images. In the first, the scene is a common sheepfold in a village, where different shepherds would bring their sheep each night, and hire a gate keeper to guard the entrance. In the morning, as the sun came up, the shepherds would return to the sheepfold, and be let in by the gatekeeper. They, then, would call their sheep out of the fold and lead them to pasture. True shepherds would have no reason to use inappropriate tactics to enter. They enter in by the same door as the sheep.

In contrast, thieves and robbers would gain access in "some other way". Using this illustration, Jesus identifies himself as the true shepherd who comes into the world in the right and proper manner, calls his own sheep by name and leads them out of the darkness into the light, John (10:1-5). Then he goes ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

When the people, particularly the Pharisees, did not understand this analogy, Jesus gave them another illustration. He said, "I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture." Here, Jesus stressed that He is the true way, the right way and the only way to the sheepfold. Jesus spoke of the gate to help clarify the image of the shepherd. This image is, perhaps, typical of any day in the Old Testament times.

After letting the sheep graze through the morning hours, at midday, the shepherd would guide his sheep to pools of water to drink and then to a temporary shelter built of shrubs where they can rest, and the shepherd himself would lay down across the entrance to the sheep enclosure so that the sheep cannot go in or out without stepping over him. In the same way, Jesus identifies himself as the gate or the door which protects the sheep and enables them to seek food and thus to have life. Thus, Jesus identifies himself in two images, that of the shepherd and the gate.

Jesus, then, once again contrasted himself with false shepherds. He is in fact very specific about those who came before him as thieves and robbers whom the sheep rightly recognized them as strangers and fled. To whom does Jesus refer to as "thieves and robbers?" Obviously, Jesus was not saying that godly men like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and other prophets who had come before him were thieves and robbers. Jesus did not say that they "were" but that they "are" thieves and robbers. Here Jesus was referring to those Pharisees of his time, who preyed on the Israelites and used them for their own selfish ends.

Finally, Jesus said, "A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy. I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly", John (10:10). False shepherds take away life through deception and violence but true shepherds care, protect and save life. Thieves and robbers take away life but Jesus promises to give life and He gives it abundantly. It does not mean a promise of material abundance and absence of illnesses and suffering. It rather consists of an abundance of love, joy, peace and the fruits of the Spirit, which come as a result of us being right with God through faith in Christ from the time of baptism to eternity, Galatians (5:22-23). The apostle Paul, for instance, was not rich in this world's goods, but he enjoyed the abundant life that Christ offers. He was content with just food and clothing, 1 Timothy (6:8), but he was rich toward God, Luke (12:21) and Ephesians (2:7).

There are many important lessons we can learn from today's gospel passage:

  • The Lord Jesus is our Shepherd and we are his sheep. Like a shepherd who knows every lamb in his flock, Jesus knows each one of us. He knows that just like sheep, we are weak and vulnerable, and we are constantly threatened by anti-life forces, such as sorrow, suffering, poverty, hunger, disease, greed, lust, selfishness, envy and death.
  • "The Church" is the sheepfold built by the Lord Jesus. "The Church" here does not just refer to the "hierarchical structure" and "building" but to the community of believers who are one in mind and heart. He has put us together in the Church to protect us from "predators", "false shepherds", and "evil forces" who want to "steal, kill and destroy" our precious life, and has appointed the Twelve Apostles and then Popes, bishops, priests, nuns, elders, parents and godparents, to be shepherds and gatekeepers in His place to protect and feed us. He has also given us the Scriptures that we might know His will and purpose in all areas of life.
  • It is very important to belong to the sheepfold of Christ - His Church. If we are out of fellowship with God and isolated from other Christians, we can unwittingly fall prey to forces which can destroy us - sin, Satan, and a world in opposition to God and his people. Let us, therefore, fully know our shepherd, gladly listen to his voice, confidently follow him and willingly obey his teachings and commands. Because as long as we choose to live our lives according to the instructions of the Lord, we can rest assured of God's promise of abundant life.
  • Everyday Jesus calls us by name and leads us out to the best places where we can find everlasting peace, joy, and fellowship with God and his people. He provides us with our daily bread. He feeds our souls with His word. He nourishes us with his own body and blood in the Eucharist. He does not leave us alone. He guides us in prayer. He directs us in our moral life. He encourages us to face our daily challenges. He leads us through green pastures and still waters, and protects us from all evil.
  • The Lord Jesus is not only our shepherd but also the gate. He is not a gate or one of many gates, but the gate. As the gate, He provides salvation, safety, and sustenance for anyone who enters the community of believers.

Let us confidently allow our Lord Jesus to be the Gate and our Shepherd of our life.

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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