“This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again” (John 10:17).
Within his self-description as the good shepherd, Jesus reveals the heart of the Paschal Mystery. By giving up his life, Jesus gives us life.
I once heard the Paschal Mystery described succinctly as “dying equals rising.”
This concise summary is described elsewhere in the Gospel according to John: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24); “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
The good shepherd putting his sheep before himself; a grain of wheat dying to itself to produce an abundant harvest; and a friend who sacrifices everything for the beloved; that is what Jesus does for us.
The Paschal Mystery is precisely what we celebrate this Easter season. In laying down his own life, Jesus took it up again and took us with it.
Elsewhere in the Scriptures, St. Paul explains just what this means for humanity: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54b-57).
Keeping the Paschal Mystery in mind, we can enter more fully into the Scriptures for this fourth Sunday of Easter.
With the psalmist we can sing: “I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me and have been my Savior.”
With St. John we can, “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are” (1 John 3:1).
With Peter we can believe confidently that, “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Before his passion, death and resurrection, Jesus made clear to his disciples: “I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own” (John 10:18).
In meditating on the Easter season we see these words fulfilled — Jesus truly did lay down his life for his sheep and his friends.
Perhaps a one word response best captures our sentiments: Allelulia!
Fourth Sunday of Easter
- Acts 4:8-12
- 1 John 3:1-2
- John 10:11-18
Read the Scriptures in this article and pray with them.
Deacon Ben Hadrich is in formation for the priesthood at The St. Paul Seminary for the Diocese of Duluth. His home parish is Holy Family in McGregor and his teaching parish is St. John the Evangelist in Duluth.