Sunday Sermon for May 3, 2020, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A
Readings: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; 1 Pt 2:20b-25; Jn 10:1-10
In the Gospel reading today Jesus tells us He is the gate for the sheep. As we know, it was a common practice to have a fenced in pen wherein the sheep could spend the night in safety, but there was no gate on the pen. Instead, the shepherd would sleep in the opening, thus remaining with his sheep while keeping them in the pen and keeping predators away.
For a sheep to enter or exit the sheepfold, it would have to go past the shepherd. The sheep could not go over the fence, so the shepherd served as the only means to enter. For us, Heaven is the sheepfold we desire to enter, and there is only one way to get in. Jesus told us no one could come to the Father except through Him. He also told us He is the way, as well as the truth and the life.
Regarding the concept of the gate, St. Peter told the Jewish crowd that gathered on Pentecost that “God has made both Lord and Christ this Jesus Whom you crucified.” So, He is the Master and He is the Messiah. As Master or Lord, He owns the sheep and determines who is admitted into His flock. As the Christ or Messiah, He is the only means by which our sins can be forgiven and we can get into Heaven.
Jesus is Lord and Christ because of His passion, death, and resurrection. This is what ultimately makes Him the gate. The Paschal Mystery is what opens the door to those seeking entrance and keeps out those who want to destroy the sheep. In other words, the cross, and Jesus Christ Crucified, is the gate through which we must enter. There is no other means of entrance into the Kingdom of Christ.
It is one thing to know we need to come to the gate in order to gain entrance, but we also need to know how to get to the gate in the first place. This is why our Lord’s teaching that He is the way becomes imperative. We can know generically that we have to climb up Calvary to get to the Cross and we have to go through the Cross to get into Heaven. However, St. Peter also tells us the way or the path we need to take to climb Calvary.
In the second reading St. Peter tells us Jesus left us an example to follow in His footsteps. To follow in His footsteps is to follow the way that leads to the gate and through the gate into the sheepfold. So, what is the path? St. Peter tells us the path is the way of suffering. The example Jesus left is that He suffered for us. Therefore, St. Peter tells us that when we suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God.
It is not enough to suffer merely for doing what is right. St. Peter speaks further of the example of Jesus: “when He was insulted, He returned no insult; when He suffered He did not threaten.” It is often difficult for us to not get angry or not act in anger. But St. Peter says that our Lord’s death has freed us from sin so we might live for righteousness.
We each need to ask if we are living a righteous way of life. Do we walk the path of suffering? Do we respond with charity when we are made to suffer? Do we love our enemies and pray for our persecutors? This is what our Shepherd has done for us and commanded us. This is the example He gives us to follow. If we are not walking in His footsteps, then we are not on the path that leads to the gate we seek to enter.
If we are not on the way that is Christ, then we have gone astray like sheep. We must also realize that if we have strayed, then we have walked right past our Lord; we have willfully chosen to reject the way He has chosen for us.
In order to get back on the way, we must return through Christ. He is the only means of salvation and, if we want that salvation, we must choose to walk the path of righteousness He blazed for us. That path is a participation in His passion and death. Fear of suffering is often why we stray. However, suffering is not an end it itself, but the means to participate in His resurrection and glory. Therefore, if you have strayed, come back to the Shepherd and Guardian of your soul, walk the path to Calvary, and through the gate of Christ crucified, enter into the glory of Heaven.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.