- Acts of the Apostles 4:5-12
- Psalm 23
- 1 John 3:16-24
- John 10:11-18
We know love by this, that Jesus laid down life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 1 John 3:16-18
This Sunday is often called “Good Shepherd Sunday.” So many reflections and studies on this day will focus on the Gospel. But what if we were to focus on the meaning of the cross and the mission of the church? Our text in 1 John tells us that we, as recipients of the redeeming sacrifice of the shepherd who will lay his life down for his sheep, out in turn to “lay down our lives for one another” (v. 16). We should show as much love as Christ showed for us through self-giving and care for others. This love should be expressed through “truth and action” (v. 18), not mere words.
Some reflections from others:
“I have often been threatened by death. Nevertheless, as a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I shall arise in the Salvadoran people. I say so without meaning to boast, with the greatest humility . . . Martyrdom is grace of God that I do not belief I deserve. But if God accepts the sacrifice of my life, let my blood be a seed of freedom and a sign that hope will soon be a reality. Let my death, if it is accepted by God, be for the liberation of my people and as a witness of hope in the future. You may say, if they succeed in killing me, that I pardon and bless those who do it. Would that thus they might be convinced that they will waste their time. A bishop will die, but the church of God, which is the people, will never perish.” Archbishop Oscar Romero, in speaking over the telephone to Jose Calderon Salazar, Guatemalan correspondent of the Mexican newspaper “Excelsior” about two weeks before his murder.
“The meaning of the cross, of redemptive suffering, also appears in a different light for those who suffer and are killed as part of the struggle for justice. Too often Christians have treated the suffering Christ as some kind of cosmic legal transaction with God to pay for the sins of humanity, as though anyone’s sufferings and death could actually “pay for” others’ sins! Christ’s cross is used to inculcate a sense of masochistic guilt, unworthiness and passivity in Christians . . . . [Thus] to accept and endure evil is regarded as redemptive . . . . Solidarity with the poor and with those who suffer does not mean justifying these evils, but struggling to overcome them. As one struggles against evil, one also risks suffering and becomes vulnerable to retaliation and violence to those who are intent on keeping the present system intact . . . . But risking suffering and even death on behalf of a new society, we also awaken hope.” Rosemary Radford Ruether, “To Change the World: Christology and Cultural Criticism” (Crossroad Publishing, 1981)
- How are we called to be shepherds to others?
- How does your congregation serve others?
- How do you “lay down your life” for others?