The first reading today comes from the Acts of the Apostles. That’s that story, that lengthy story that Luke records of the experience of the early church.
And one of the things that is very much noted in that presentation is transformation.
You have, as we see in the first reading today, the transformation of Peter.
The one who was so fearful that he denied the Lord three times, rather than acknowledge that he had awareness or knowledge or relationship with him.
And yet here Peter is out in front of the people.
Preaching the good news. The centricity of Jesus in their life.
Interesting that in the Acts of the Apostles, the phrase that is mentioned more often than not is that they are going out of the Holy Spirit.
They’re literally acting out of the risen life of Christ, which has been shared with them by the Spirit and has been brought them into oneness with the Father.
So you have, again, that reading, which will continue and there will be other stories of transformation that take place in the Acts of the Apostles,
most notably the transformation of Saul, a persecutor to becoming Paul a proclaimer.
You come down to the second reading. As part of letters that John wrote.
John, I think, wrote three letters in addition to his gospel and to the Book of Revelation.
But there is an interesting phrase that John has in this particular section of the letter.
It is that “you know who you are now”.
And his focus really in all the letters is about the now – you know who you are now.
The implication that John is making and be found in that first reading, because the transformation of Peter is a transformation of someone who was fearful.
Someone. We’ll be confident and courageous.
And because he becomes confident and courageous by the power of the Spirit is able to live in that moment.
And in that moment he’s able to present. You present the word of God, both in action.
And in explanation, that’s so important. Because Peter is not merely about words.
He’s about action. Matter of fact, that whole episode is a result of action.
In the name of Jesus, he has allowed this cripple to get up and walk.
And they are, in a sense, questioning or challenging him as to why he did it and how he did it.
He’s very clear. It was Jesus who did it.
Then who, the gospel of the Good Shepherd uses that very, very vivid image, an image that the people would have been very much aware of and associated with us shepherding.
Was part of the life experience of the people in that day.
Maybe not so much our day. However, if you go over to Governors Island, I just learned this the other day,
if you go over to Governors Island, you’re going to see a flock of sheep that they’ve brought in.
They will cut the grass. Keep the keep the thing. And if you go up to Riverside Park, you’ll see a flock of goats.
They’re up there trimming all of the growth.
So I guess we’re going back here in this cosmopolitan area and we’re learning to go back to the use of nature.
And again, a great appreciation of the animals that are very much a part of nature.
Maybe if you go, you’ll see a shepherd. I don’t know if that’s coming about yet, but the shepherd had a very real role.
Who was the shepherd protected the flock and the flock was always at risk.
Sheep are beautiful animals. But they’re very fragile.
And they’re very fearful. And so this shepherd really becomes the source of their strength.
One who, in a sense, keeps them. In a very wholesome position.
When you listen to the scripture. You can see how Jesus is using that image.
Is an image that builds confidence and courage.
Must be recognized again from the words of Jesus?
The Good Shepherd? He’s the one who knows us.
He’s the one who watches out for us. He’s the one who sustains us.
And ultimately, he’s the one that brings us into the true gift of life.
So Peter is able to say this man was healed.
But the Good Shepherd. I watch him.
John is able to say, you can live in this moment.
You can be filled with confidence and courage. Because the Good Shepherd knows you and help you to know yourself as a child of God.
In this moment. And there is where your strength will flow from.
So as we come again to these very beautiful readings today on the fourth Sunday of Easter, we are filled with confidence.
And hopefully also given courage to live in this moment as a child of God.
One who literally embodies in our life the life of Christ.