Reflection for the Fourth Sunday Easter (Year C)
Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
Once upon a time, a wise man was asked by the kingmakers in his kingdom to become the new king after the death of their king. To the amazement of all, he turned down the offer. When he was asked why he did not accept the rare offer, he replies and says, “It is better to be a good follower than aspiring to be a good leader; I prefer to obey than to command.
The wise man’s decision is profound. There is a default tendency in us to place impossible demands on the leadership, but we do so little as followers. We are constantly complaining about the government and church leaders and judge them on issues on various issue even the ones that fall outside their line duty, however, we neglect our obligations.
Good Shepherd; but what about the Good Sheep?
Traditionally, we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Easter as the Good Shepherd Sunday. However, the Gospel of this Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year C) tries to shift the attention to the obligations of the sheep just as the vision of John in the Second Reading (Revelation.7:9, 14b-17) relates the benefits good sheep.
The vision of John tells us about a great multitude from every nation, race, people, and tongue standing before the Lamb. We also gather from the narrative that the Lamb who is at the center of the throne is the shepherd that leads them to springs of life-giving water and will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
The lesson we learn from the vision of John is that the lamb is the shepherd (the leader), and the multitude is the sheep (followers). Notice that this multitude (the sheep) can stand before the Lamb because of their compliance to some important demands: surviving the great distress and washing their robes in the blood of the lamb.
Becoming the Good Sheep
The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11) and he knows the sheep and they sheep know him (John 10:14). However, Good Shepherd with bad sheep would be a labor in futility. It is not all about having a good leadership; good followership is also very important. Leadership excels when there is intentional compliance from the followers.
Coming back to our point of departure, if we celebrate Jesus as the Good Shepherd is it not proper that we celebrate ourselves as good sheep by truly qualifying to be so named? The Gospel Reading gives us the simple and functional roadmap on how to become good sheep.
The Good Sheep Listens to the Good Shepherd
No matter how powerful and good you can be as a leader, if nobody listens when you speak, then your plans and aspirations might be ineffective. Listening involves giving prompt and intentional attention to someone’s words and directions.
In the Gospel Reading Jesus says, “my sheep hear my voice”. Listening to the Lord is an expression of our love and commitment to him. In the Gospel of John (14:15) Jesus says: “if you love me, you will keep my commandment”.
The problem of our world today is largely inattention to God. Adam and Eve sinned in the garden because they shifted from giving attention to the word of God and listened to devil who came in the form of the serpent to lure them to sin (Genesis 3:1-5).
We live in a world with so many distracting voices speaking loudly from various quarters including the conventional and social media. God speaks, but how many of us are listening. Good sheep mentality involves intentional and committed listening to the Good Shepherd. Your life is as good or as bad who you give your attention.
The Good Sheep Follows
It is one thing to hear and yet another thing to act. In the full version of the passage Jesus says: “my sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me”. Following makes a follower not just hearing. What makes us the good sheep is our profound ability to translate what we hear into functional positive steps.
To word “follow” has become more meaningful in our day especially as it indicates the trajectory of someone’s interest. So, we see people having millions of followers on various social media platforms and most times they are converted into monetary gains because the more followers you have the more you stand to gain.
To follow someone in the strict sense of the word is to subscribe to the individual’s ideas and lifestyles. If we follow the Good Shepherd, then we ought to come to him and learn from him (Matt. 11:28-29).
Moving Forward: Obtaining the Good Sheep Benefits
The vision of John in the Book of Revelation tells us that the Lamb will lead the shepherded sheep to springs of life-giving water. You need to be a docile follower to be led to the life-giving water. Further, God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. These are powerful benefits from our commitment to follow the Lord.
In the Gospel Reading, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd himself promises that above the physical provision and protection, he would provide the good sheep with eternal life which should the goal of our souls.
Today, we are invited to work through the path of compliance with the words and directive of the Good Shepherd by our attentive listening and wilful obedience.
God bless you.