Fourth Sunday of Easter

The Shepherd and  Guardian of Our Souls

We have one thing that is unique to us, and that is our souls. Our souls are a gift from God:

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.   (Genesis 2:7)

A soul was given to us at birth. It is the only thing we have that truly belongs solely to us and no one else. Our soul will never die. It is a gift that extends far beyond this life. In fact, it lasts for an eternity. We have been given sole custody of it. Only God can access our soul, but that is by our invitation.

Our soul has been sent to earth to experience life and develop. We encounter the challenges of life which help develop and form our souls. Our soul become the product of how we respond to the challenges and opportunities of this life.

Do we want to do it alone? Or do we want to trust someone else to direct and define us? Perhaps the culture? Perhaps an entertainer or sports personality? Can we trust these sources to understand who we are and where we should be going?

There is another alternative. The Apostle Peter wrote:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross,  so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.   (1 Peter 2:24-25)

We live in confusing times. Numerous people and things vye for our attention. But what do they provide us?
We have another source:

Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”   (John 10:7-10)

Some may be wondering where that pasture is right now. Jesus will lead us there. He is our Good Shepherd. He may require some movement on our part, even physical relocation at times. Nonetheless, Jesus knows where the best pasture is for us.  In fact, he has chosen our best location as the last and final one. Will we trust him enough to follow him?

King David was called by God to lead his people. He was anointed by God to do so, but he faced many challenges and obstacles along the way. The enemy does not want us to succeed and he will everything that he can to discourage us. David wrote this famous psalm to share with us the source of his divine help:

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures
and leads me beside still waters.

He revives my soul
and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil;
for you are with me
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me;
you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.

Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.   (Psalm 23:1-6)

Today, who is our shepherd? Who is the guardian of our souls? This may be the most important question we will ever ponder. Our souls are presented with many choices and many paths, There is only one path that promises us life eternal in the presence of God. There is only one person who can make that promise.

The disciple Thomas was concerned about where Jesus was going:

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  (John 14:5-6)
We have nothing to fear. Even though the future may seem doubtful, God is still in charge. Jesus tells us today:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”   (Matthew 11:28-29)

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Filed under Easter, Eucharist, Gospel, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year A

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