Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies
COLLECTS OF THE ROMAN MISSAL - SUNDAY, APRIL 22nd, 2018 A.D.: THE GOOD SHEPHERD
For today’s meditation on the Collects of the Roman Missal, we consider the principal Collect for the Mass of the Fourth Sunday of Easter in the Missale Romanum 1970, which is devoted to the theme of Christ as the Good Shepherd. (Last week was “Good Shepherd Sunday” in the Missale Romanum 1962). Below is the official ICEL English translation of the original Latin Collect for today’s Mass in the MR’70:
“Almighty ever-living God, lead us to a share in the joys of heaven, so that the humble flock may reach where the brave Shepherd has gone before. Who lives and reigns, etc. Amen.”
Today’s Collect, like the one we examined last week from the MR’62, links us once again to Christ’s selfdescription as the Good Shepherd in John 10. One of the most striking lines in our Gospel today is the following declaration of our Lord: “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from My Father” (cf. Jn. 10:17-18, RSV).
Jesus clearly predicts His Death and Resurrection. He is not a pawn, but goes freely to His Passion. Furthermore, Jesus rises again from the dead of His own power. No mere man can do this: only the God-man, Jesus Christ, has the power to rise from the dead, and to grant a share in His Resurrection to any who seek Him with faith.
When the prayer speaks of Christ as “the brave Shepherd,” it indicates especially the victory of His Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension over death, sin and the devil. Comforting images of Christ and cuddly lambs aside (I have no problem with these by any means), we do well to be reminded that this analogy of Christ as the Good Shepherd is not meant to be cute. Rather, it is a dramatic image of brave combat, sacrifice, death, victory, and triumph.
The Church’s liturgy also looks at the whole of the Paschal Mystery in exactly this way. We can see this especially in certain lines of the Easter Paschal Sequence hymn, Victimae paschali laudes:
“A Lamb the sheep redeems; Christ, who only is sinless, reconciles sinners to the Father. Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous: The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal…..Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!”
We can see, then, that the theme of Christ as the Good Shepherd has been present with us ever since Easter morning itself.
In our Collect, we ask God that we, Christ’s flock, may reach heaven, where Christ, the brave Shepherd, has preceded us. We may argue that the Collect implies that in following our brave Shepherd, we also must be brave, in order to merit heaven. A flock can only reach good pastures by following the course set by the Shepherd. Christ’s course is this: a free and loving embrace of the Father’s will, and consequently, a self-sacrificing love for others, even if this should entail suffering. Christian bravery consists in uniting our sufferings with Christ’s glorious wounds in the hope of redemption and resurrection (cf. Easter Vigil, Blessing of Paschal Candle). By our communion with our brave Shepherd, that is, by sharing in the triumph of His risen life, Christ will give us the grace to imitate Him and to be vessels and channels of His love.
|Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.