THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD – Fourth Sunday of Easter Year A

May 3, 2020

Revised Common Lectionary

Acts 2:42-47
Psalm 23
1 Peter 2:19-25
John 10:1-10


Lectionary for Mass (RC)

Acts 2:1, 4a, 36-41
Psalm 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6 (1)
1 Peter 2:20b-25
John 10:1-10

The figure of the shepherd has for thousands of years captured the imaginations of people from various religions and cultures. Even though most of us have probably never met someone charged with the care of actual sheep, this image continues to engage us even today.

In the Hebrew Scriptures God is sometimes addressed as “Shepherd,” as in Psalm 23, the best known and most beloved of all the Psalms. It would be difficult to think of a hymn or prayer that conveys more powerfully the human response of trust in the God who is always present to guide, comfort, and nurture: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Ps 23:1).

The Scriptures also apply the image of shepherd to political and religious authorities. The prophet Ezekiel, for example, speaks of shepherds in pronouncing a scathing judgment on self-serving leaders of his own time: “Thus says the Lord God, I am against the shepherds . . . I will rescue my sheep from their mouths . . . I myself will search for my sheep, and seek them out” (Ez 34:10-11). God’s stinging rebuke conveys the ferocity of the divine Shepherd concerned for the welfare of the flock.

These familiar images from the Psalms and the Prophets were surely on the minds of the religious leaders to whom Jesus’ words are addressed in today’s Gospel. After they attempted to discredit him over the healing on the Sabbath of a man born blind (Jn 9:1-41), Jesus had accused them of blindness. Now he characterizes them as “thieves and bandits” (vss. 2, 8), because they fail to recognize that he himself is the gate to the sheepfold. His words are a stern rebuke to leaders who abuse their positions and mislead the flock of God.

Today’s Gospel reading calls those of us in positions of pastoral leadership to have the heart of the Shepherd, to make the welfare of God’s flock our first and overriding concern. Our ministry must always be centered in the self-emptying love of Christ himself. Like him we are to let go of our own agenda as we accompany others to still waters, green pastures, and the house of the Lord.

This passage is also a reminder to all the members of God’s flock to listen carefully amidst the noise of many competing voices that claim authority. We are to attune our ears to discern the voice of the one Shepherd who has given his life for us and even today is with us to comfort and to guide.

A Hymn for Today: “All the Way My Savior Leads Me”

“All the Way My Savior Leads Me” was the first of hymn writer Fanny J. Crosby’s texts to be set to the music of Robert Lowry, appearing in a collection he published in 1875. Lowry considered it to be one of her best.

Although it includes no direct shepherd references, this hymn evokes many of the images of Psalm 23: comfort and mercy; leading and guiding; dwelling in the house of God. Crosby also uses language that recalls the Psalm’s “right paths” (v. 3), “a table before me” (v. 4), and “my cup overflows” (v. 5). Above all, this hymn conveys a spirit of complete trust in the One who is there, like the Good Shepherd (John 10), to guide us at every step in life’s journey.

All the way my Savior leads me—
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt his tender mercy,
Who through life has been my guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me—
Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for ev’ry trial,
Feeds me with the living bread.
Though my weary steps may falter
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the rock before me,
Lo! a spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the rock before me,
Lo! a spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me—
Oh, the fullness of his love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day,
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way.

Text: Fanny J. Crosby, 1820-1915

Image: Psalm 23, John August Swanson

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.