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Lindemann on Misericordias Domini (Easter 3–Second Sunday After)

by revalkorn ~ May 2nd, 2011

MISERICORDIAS DOMINI, THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EASTER

This Sunday is generally known as Good Shepherd Sunday. We are still in the season that is entirely under the spell of the Easter Feast. After having taught us so many great and beautiful things of the Easter Lord and the Easter gifts He has brought us, the Liturgy looks about for a picture that might incorporate all and finds it in the parable of the Good Shepherd. Because the early Church derived her whole piety and vigor from the Easter mystery, the image of the Good Shepherd was a favorite symbol in the Christian liturgy of that time, and to this day the Liturgy takes great delight in it. However, for us modern Christians there is danger of becoming too sentimental over this way of representing Christ and not profiting from the lesson it has to tell. it may be well to remind ourselves that the Sundays after Easter are intended to illustrate and demonstrate the newness of life into which we have entered with Christ. On the Second Sunday after Easter the parable of the Good Shepherd presents to us the example of our Lord, which we are to follow and imitate. We must be good sheep, docile and grateful followers of the Good Shepherd. We must lend our efforts to the care of souls, so that we do not obstruct the work of the Good Shepherd in the Church. We must be good shepherds to all who are entrusted to our care, and not hirelings. The hireling is an egotist, who thinks only of his own comfort and interests. The struggle against inordinate self-seeking is one of the most serious obligations of a Christian. Every good deed we perform on behalf of our fellow men is a proof that we are playing the part of the good shepherd to others.

The Introit. “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made. Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous! For praise is comely for the upright.”

A phrase of the Antiphon has given this Sunday its name, Misericordias Domini, “the steadfast love,” “the tender mercies” of the Lord. The note of the day is struck by “rejoice in the Lord,” and is echoed in the Collect, “perpetual gladness,” “partakers of eternal joys.” At this time of the year “the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” Spring, the awakening, is at hand. Nature is bearing its wonderful testimony to the risen life. But a holier note is in the Good Shepherd’s return from the grave. Now the Victor, He intimately knows and is known by His own. He guards, cares for, leads to the ever green pastures.

The Collect. “God, who by the humiliation of Thy Son didst raise up the fallen world, grant unto Thy faithful ones perpetual gladness, and those whom Thou hast delivered from the danger of everlasting death do Thou make partakers of eternal joys; through the same,” etc.

The phrase “by the humiliation of Thy Son” makes the sufferings of which the Epistle speaks the ground for this petition. We ask not for passing joys or temporal ease, not for animal comforts pictured in the parable of the Holy Gospel, but perpetual gladness, eternal joys, to be found in Christ, the Good Shepherd, who raised up a fallen world.

The Epistle (I Peter 2:21-25). The Easter thought of the newness of life is expressed: “Leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.” Also: “That we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” The Good Shepherd may lead us through suffering, but there is now fellowship which was lacking before and which the Easter victory brings home to every believing heart. St. Peter poured his very heart into these words. He had gone astray, but the Good Shepherd’s love had made it possible for him to return to the Shepherd and Guardian of his soul. One hundred sheep, one gone astray, seeking and saving the one that was lost, the lost sheep on the shoulders of the Good Shepherd.

The Gradual. “Alleluia! Alleluia! Then was the Lord known of the disciples in the breaking of bread. Alleluia! I am the Good Shepherd and know My sheep and am known of Mine. Alleluia!”

The two sentences seem not to have a connection. The words “known” and “know” are the connection. There is more than recognition, general knowledge, but implied is confidence, understanding, love, to be one, to live for one another. It is being essentially united, like mother and child. While “the breaking of bread” with the disciples of Emmaus need not at all mean the celebration of the Holy Communion, yet it is true that the deepest and inmost oneness with Christ is attained in the Holy Eucharist.

The Proper Sentence. “Alleluia! Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us. Alleluia!

The Gospel (St. John 10:11-16) brings us three pictures of the Pastor bonus, past, present, and future.

The Proper Preface. “But chiefly are we bound to praise Thee for the glorious resurrection of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord; for He is the very Paschal Lamb which was offered for us and hath taken away the sins of the world; who by His death hath destroyed death and by His rising to life again hath restored to us everlasting life.”

OUTLINE FOR SERMON ON THE EPISTLE

The Sunday of the Good Shepherd conveys the truth expressed in our Savior’s new commandment, “that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another,” St. John 13:34. We are, therefore, to consider the love of Christ as manifested in His sacrifice and as enjoined upon us by His example.

The Love of Christ

A. The Christian’s Calling. “For to this you have been called.” In the previous verses we are told to what we are called (vv. 19,20). The Christian ideal is not satisfied by mere resignation under suffering, for the Christian is to be patient not only when he suffers justly but also when he suffers wrongly. He must be as ready to suffer for doing right as he is for doing wrong. Such patience has God’s approval, for it can come only from the highest motives, “mindful of God” (v. 19). Christian meekness is far more than a mere passive quality and must never be confounded with weakness, for more strength is needed to restrain our passions than to let them have their way. The Christian is meek because the passion of love has the mastery over all other passions.

B. The Example of Love. Such conduct is our bounden duty, for we are called not only to trust in Christ but also to follow Him. We are to follow His footsteps of sinlessness, of sincerity, of meekness under provocation, of calm confidence in the just judgment of God. Unless we endeavor to be like Christ in His holiness, we cannot be like Him in His patience, who did right and suffered for it. We cannot otherwise suffer as Christ, but at best only as the penitent thief who received the due reward of his deeds (Luke 23:41). But we are called to do far more than this.

C. The Sacrifice of Love. Love was the very essence of Christ’s sacrifice and must, therefore, be the example we are to follow. The exceeding love of Christ’s sacrifice is seen in every phrase of the description. “He Himself bore our sins.” He alone could bear the Cross, and He bore it alone. The Good Shepherd did not send. after the lost sheep; He went after them. “In His body.” The high priests offered the bodies of beasts, turning over to them the pain of sacrifice. Christ bore all in His body. “Upon the tree.” A place of agony inconceivable and of shame inexpressible, of dreadful loneliness, of horrible publicity. He was made as one accursed for us. All this was a sacrifice of love, for it was done for “our sins.”

D. The Purpose of Love. Christ’s purpose in dying so was far more than merely our pardon. He came not merely that our sins should be forgiven but “that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” He came to heal die wounds of sin and to restore us to perfect soundness. He came not merely that our wandering should be overlooked but that we should cease to wander; not only to bring us back to the fold but, as our Shepherd and Guardian, to keep us ever under His love and care. In this way the final words of the Epistle prepare for the fuller teaching of the Holy Gospel.

OUTLINE FOR SERMON ON THE HOLY GOSPEL

Both sacrifice and example meet in the character of the Good Shepherd, who not only laid down His life for the sheep but goes before them that they should follow His steps. Christ’s death is at once our trust, our motive, and our example. The love of Christ is to constrain us to a risen life of love. Christ, our Sacrifice, and Christ, our Example, are combined in our Savior’s description of Himself as the Good Shepherd, in whom are all the qualities of courage, faithfulness. and patience which a shepherd needs and of whom every earthly shepherd is a far-off picture and type. He has in perfection every mark of a true shepherd.

The Love of the Good Shepherd

A. Self-Devotion. The Eastern shepherd, in lands that are waste and desolate, must often imperil his life in contention with fierce beasts and robbers. Christ did even more than this, for He laid down His life for the sheep. His only care when the wolf came was to safeguard His little flock. His self-devotion arises from His ownership. He is not a hireling. He will go after the lost until He finds it, for it is to Him “My sheep which was lost” (Luke 15:6).

B. Intimacy. As the shepherd knows his sheep with an individual, almost personal knowledge, so Christ knows His sheep. He knows not merely who are His sheep and who are not but what they are and where they are. He knows their weakness, gathering the lambs in His arms and gently leading those that are with young (Is. 40:11). He knows their weariness, their folly, their temptations, their dangers, and their aptness to stray. He is not cold, or high, or distant with them, but admits them into personal intimacy with Himself. They know His voice from the voice of strangers. This union is one of nature, comparable only to the intimacy between the Father and the Son. They are known by Him as He is known by the Father, they know Him as He knows the Father. This intimacy is the secret of His sacrifice on their behalf.

C. Pastoral Care. His heart is even wider than His fold, an inward pressure drives Him to seek His other sheep that are scattered abroad and to lead them to know Him and one another. He desires to be their Leader: “I must bring them also, and they will heed My voice.” Here we meet with this Sunday’s thought of example emphasized in the Epistle, “leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.” Christ is also the Example of all shepherds who “feed the Church of the Lord, which He obtained with His own blood” (Acts 20:28), and who are to be “examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). He is an example to the sheep. He has passed through life and death to mark a path, and His sheep are to heed His voice and follow Him until they meet as one flock, one Shepherd.

THE HOLY COMMUNION

“The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” “I lay down My life for the sheep.” In the Holy Communion we eat and drink in remembrance of Him and believingly remember that He gave His body and shed His blood to rescue us from the wolf of hell. In the holy Sacrament He gives us that very body and that very blood to eat and to drink together with the bread and wine. By our eating and drinking we declare that we believe our Good Shepherd laid down His life for us and that we are sheep of His flock. “I know My own, and My own know Me.” In the Holy Communion the word “know” is given its deepest significance. For knowing is not merely a thing of the mind or intellect. There is a way of knowing Him with the very fibers of our being, it is the intimate union of our soul with Him. This bond with Christ is brought about by the Holy Communion. Here the believer makes the matter of knowing Him a reality in the highest sense, for He unites Himself to us by a most intimate and enduring bond. Through the Sacrament, more than in any other way, we should feel that we are the sheep of His pasture. As such we also remember that He has left us an example, that we should follow in His steps. We are to die to sin and live to righteousness. If our eating and drinking is a profession on our part that we know ourselves to be sheep of the Good Shepherd, it will also be a declaration that we are firmly resolved to follow in His steps.

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