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4th Sunday of Easter, Year B | Anzac Day and the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep

The Good Shepherd, Greek Orthodox Byzantine Icon, egg tempera on wood panel.

The Good Shepherd, Greek Orthodox Byzantine Icon, egg tempera on wood panel.

Today’s Mass readings:

Word format: Year B Easter 4th Sunday 2015

Pdf format: Year B Easter 4th Sunday 2015

This year Anzac Day is celebrated on the same weekend as Good Shepherd Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Easter.  Every year, the crowds attending Anzac Day ceremonies get bigger.   It is as if we humans instinctively understand sacrifice, our hearts know that sacrifice is crucial to salvation and we need to honour those who have made sacrifices in the service of others.  The Christian understanding of redemptive suffering adds value to our interpretation of the Anzac sacrifice.

Dom Carrigan CSSR draws some parallels between Easter and Anzac Day here:

Easter and Anzac Day are inextricably intertwined. Anzac Day always falls in the Easter season. They have marked differences, yet have much in common.

Both deal with suffering, sacrifice and death. At Gallipoli in Turkey, thousands of soldiers on both sides suffered terribly and died for their causes. At Calvary, Jesus, the Word of God- become-man, suffered terribly and died on a cross as a sacrifice for the world.

At Gallipoli, the Australian and New Zealand troops rejoiced that they were going to war. They wanted to test themselves internationally on the battlefield. At Calvary, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that the ‘cup’ of suffering would be taken from him. Yet each faced the future with courage and conviction.

At Gallipoli, there were tens of thousands of soldiers and, in general, a tremendous spirit of mateship. At Calvary, Jesus was deserted by his own disciples (except for a few, mainly women) and felt completely abandoned.

At Gallipoli the soldiers had rifles, bayonets, guns, as well as other instruments of war to wound and to kill. At Calvary, Jesus was defenceless. He had even told Peter to put away his sword (John 18:11).

Gallipoli was a military defeat, yet it was regarded as a victory for the Anzac spirit as well as for the brilliant way Australian Brigadier-General Brudenell White organised the withdrawal of the troops. It was feared in Britain that they would ‘lose 25,000 men and many guns’ in the withdrawal (FitzSimons, Gallipoli p. 616).  In fact, unbelievably, there were no fatalities in the withdrawal.

Calvary was seen as a defeat for Jesus and his followers. Instead it turned out to be the necessary way to his victory. Jesus had said to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, “Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26).

This year there will be celebrations greater than ever, both at Gallipoli and around Australia and New Zealand, because of the Anzac centenary. At Easter, millions of Christians will celebrate the triumph of Jesus over sin and evil and death.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says,

I am the good shepherd:
the good shepherd is one
who lays down his life for his sheep.
The hired man, since he is not the shepherd
and the sheep do not belong to him,
abandons the sheep and runs away
as soon as he sees a wolf coming,
and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep;
this is because he is only a hired man
and has no concern for the sheep.

I am the good shepherd;
I know my own and my own know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I lay down my life for my sheep.

To understand more about the purpose of Jesus’ death and suffering, read on at The Sacred Page, where Dr John Bergsma goes in deep with today’s readings.  In fact it is Yeshua of Nazareth, Jesus the Christ, the ultimate sacrifice, the cornerstone rejected by the builders, who is the key to our salvation.  He knows us personally, and those who are seeking the truth will recognise his voice and he will speak to their hearts.  For some extra thoughts on Jesus knowing and loving you personally in the light of today’s readings, listen here.