The Fourth Sunday of Easter is typically called “Good Shepherd Sunday” as the Gospel passage comes from different parts of the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel in which Jesus distinguishes himself as the “Good Shepherd” as opposed to the “bad shepherds” who serve others only for personal gain. While each year we hear a different part of this passage, the one thing that remains consistent in this Sunday’s Mass from year to year is our use of the 23rd Psalm.
Psalm 23 is very comforting and is a wonderful reminder to us of the Lord leading us to “green pastures.” In fact, I think that is what often beckons to us….the images of peaceful pastures, restful waters, a table spread before us, and dwelling in the house of the Lord forever. What calls out to me this year, however, are the following lines, “Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage” (Ps. 23:4). Some translations speak of “shadow of darkness” and his rod and staff “comforting me.” But the translation that we have at Mass this weekend I think is appropriate. There is much darkness that has encircled us in these days of pandemic and isolation. We are in need of light, and we are in need of being strengthened and encouraged. Let us not lose sight of the fact that Jesus himself is the Good Shepherd and he desires to lead us and strengthen us in these days and in those that remain ahead of us.