LECTIO DIVINA: IV Sunday of Easter, Cycle A
Translated by Fray Hubert Dunstan Decena, OAR
A. Invoking the Holy Spirit.
We invoke the Holy Spirit using the words of St. Augustine.
Come, Holy Spirit, by whom every devout soul, who believes in Christ, is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps. 45:8) Come, Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God, put in us your flame, enlighten us and raise us up to Go0d. (s. 128,4) Amen.
With hearts well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.
1 “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. 2 But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gate keeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. 5 But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”6 Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them.
7 So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come and go out and find pasture. 10 A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy. I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. John.
“Nevertheless, the Lord Jesus still speaks in veiled language, no one as yet understands him. He names the gate, he names the sheepfold, he names the sheep; he inculcates, but he does not yet explain. Let us therefore read because he will arrive at the words wherein he will explain to us something he said, by which exposition he will make us understand also what he has not yet disclosed. Actually, with what is clear he pastures, with what is obscure he spurs us on. Whoever does not enter through the gate of the sheepfold, but who climbs by another part, woe to that wretch, because he will fall! Therefore, be humble, enter through the gate; come openly and you will not stumble. He says, This is a thief and killer; he wants to call his own what belongs to another; his, i.e. obtained by theft, for this: not to save them but to kill them. He is a thief, because he calls his what belongs to another; a killer, because he also kills what he stole. Whoever enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep; to him the gatekeeper opens. Let us ask that gatekeeper when we have heard the Lord who is the door and who is the shepherd. The sheep hear his voice and his own sheep he calls by name, because he has their names written in the book of life. He calls by name his own sheep. For this reason the Apostle says: The Lord knows who are his own. And he brings them out and, when he has brought out his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. On the other hand, they do not follow a stranger, but stays away from him because they do not know the voice of strangers. This is veiled, full of questions, heavy with mysteries. Let us go on, let us hear the Master who opens something from these obscurities and who, by what he opens, perhaps he makes us enter. Therefore, he whom we hear proposing something, let us hear him explain it. Thus, Jesus said to them again: Truly, truly, I tell you that I am the gate for the sheep. And so, he has opened the gate itself that he had closed. He in person is the gate. We have recognized him; let us enter and let us rejoice that we have entered. All those who had come were thieves and killers. Lord, what does this mean: All those who came? Is it because you did not come? But he understands: ‘I have said: All those who came clearlyoutside of me,’ Let us reflect. Before his coming, came the prophets; were they perhaps thieves and killers? Far from it! They did not come outside of him, because they came with him. He who was to come was sending heralds, but he possessed the hearts of those whom he had sent. Do you want to know that they came with that who is always he himself? Certainly, in time he took flesh. What does always mean? In the beginning was the Word. They came, therefore with him those who came with the Word of God. He affirms I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. If he in person is the Truth, with him came those who were truthful. Therefore, those who came outside of him were thieves and killers; that is, they came to steal and to kill.
Therefore, through this that the Lord has explained let us enter because he in person is the gate, to what he has proposed but not explained. And certainly, even though in this reading which today has been publicly read, he has not said who is the shepherd, nevertheless, in what follows he very clearly says: I am the good shepherd. Even if he would not say it, in whom else except in himself should we think with respect to these words where he affirms: He who enters by the gate, he is the shepherd of the sheep. To Him the gatekeeper opens and the sheep hear his voice and he calls by name his own sheep and takes them out. And when he has taken out his own sheep, he goes before them and the sheep … follow him because they know his voice? In fact, who else calls by name his own sheep and takes them out from here to eternal life, except one who knows the names of the predestined? For sure, he calls them by name, precisely because he affirms to his disciples: Rejoice because your names are written in heaven. And who can take them out, except he who pardons their sins so they can follow him, freed from heavy chains? And who walks before them wherever they follow him, except he who after rising from the dead dies no more and death has no more power over him, and while he was visible in the flesh he said: Father, for those whom you gave to me, I want that wherever I am the same may also be with me? This is the reason why he affirmed: I am the gate; if someone may have entered by me, he will be saved and he will come in and go out and find pasture (Io. eu.tr. 45,6. 8.14).
With the text, let us now pray from the depths of our heart. I suggest the following phrases and questions that can awaken in you dialogue with God, and at the same time can give rise to affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not move to the next phrase or question if you can still continue dialoguing with God in one of them. It is not a matter of exhausting the list, but of helping you to pray with some points that better fit your personal experience.
a. “And he calls his sheep by name and takes them out” (Jn. 10:3).
- What does it mean that the shepherd calls by name his own sheep?
- What kind of relationship is there between the shepherd and the sheep?
b. “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn.10:10).
- What does it mean to have abundant life?
- How do you manifest that you have received life from Christ?
c. Pray with this phrase: “In you I have abundant life.”
I propose to you some points for affective interior contemplation. Once again, you need not follow all of it, rather you can choose what fits your personal experience.
a. Contemplate Christ who calls you to follow him. He is the Good Shepherd who leads you to eternal pastures. Contemplate and open your ears to hear his voice. Repeat in your heart: “In you I have eternal life.”
b. Contemplate how Christ as shepherd leads you to eternal life. Make your contemplation a moment of prayer of trust and total abandon into the hands of the Good Shepherd who knows personally each one of his sheep. Repeat in your heart: “Lord, I completely trust in you.”
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially about Christ the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep. The following points can help you as guide to share with your community the experience of the lectio divina on this text.
- What have I discovered about God and about myself in this moment of prayer?
- How can I apply this text of Scripture at this moment of my life? What light does it give me? What challenges does it put before me?
- What concrete commitment does this text of Scripture ask of me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
- What has been my dominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?
Final Prayer of St. Augustine.
Turning towards the Lord: Lord God, Father Almighty, with pure heart, as far as our feebleness permits, allow us to give you our most devoted and sincere thanks, begging with all our strength from your particular goodness, that you deign to hear our petitions according to your good will, that by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions; that you increase our faith, govern our mind, and give us spiritual thoughts and bring us to your happiness through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with you lives and reigns, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8).“If there are good sheep, there are also good shepherds, because from good sheep come out good shepherds” (s. 46, 30).