The Fourth Sunday of Easter C – April 17, 2016 – What To Vote For?
In the Easter season we hear gospel stories about the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. Some followers questioned those visions while others gained inspiration to press forward in the name of Christ. We also read from the Acts of the Apostles which contain non-historical homilies and letters about the joys and struggles of early Christian movements.
Today in the Gospel of John we heard about Jesus the good shepherd. Earlier in this gospel Jesus is called a gateway to salvation, a doorway to endless opportunities. This good shepherd story is more about the sheep and their alliance to the shepherd. Some say it is based on the loving association Jesus had with the one he called Father.
This parable prompts us to think about our relationship with God and one another, near and far. How do we get along as members of the human flock where some advance forward while others cannot? In the Joy of Love, Pope Francis refers to Jesus as a shepherd who reaches out to every member of the flock, a reference to the human family. “It will become possible,” the Pope writes, “for the balm of mercy to reach everyone, believers and those far away, as a sign that the kingdom of God is already present in our midst.” (No. 309)
Also, during this Eastertide, we read from the prophetic Book of Revelation more so than in any other liturgical year. The author, John of Patmos, a victim of persecution, writes about the invisible forces and spiritual powers at work on earth and in heaven.
The Book contains letters from the risen Christ addressed to seven churches in Asia regarding the corruption in those regions. Timothy Radcliffe Johnson, a Christian origins scholar, wrote that the visions include the experiences of those who are marginalized and oppressed by the the dominant society.  Today’s passage, for example, promises that no one will go hungry or thirsty in the future.
According to scripture scholar Robin Whitaker this is a highly charged political text. At that time it competed head to head with the Roman empire known for the unjust ways it treated people living on the fringes of society. The Lamb of God takes the place of the Emperor. 
In this apocalyptic Book, the conflicts of the nations are altered by the sovereign power of God who works through Christ. Although slain by the state, Christ is the liberator from all evil. We visualize Jesus Christ, the lamb of God, the good shepherd, a prophetic witness for justice, as a model for us.
How do we model a Christian spirit for others? Last week we wrote letters to our elected officials asking them to stop hunger around the world. This coming Tuesday April 19, 2016, the New York State Presidential Primary presents another opportunity for us to act. We have the responsibility to vote.
The Catholic bishops in this country have published a guide on how to shape our consciences as faithful citizens. The bishops ask us to ponder our nation’s domestic and foreign policies and the promises of the different candidates. They advise against selecting parts of our church’s teachings in order to advance partisan interests or validate ideological biases. The entire instruction is available online. There is also a link on our parish website and my blog.
The bishops instruction is based on four principles of Catholic social teaching — human dignity, subsidiarity, solidarity and the common good. These words are not just casual concepts. They are precisely about basic human needs and the freedom all people should have to pursue opportunities.
However we vote we are making choices. Our ballot can advance strategies for achieving harmony in this nation and in other parts of the world. Our vote can make a difference in the ways you and I live and it can move legislation to provide for those struggling to survive everyday. Do not forget to vote.
- Radcliffe, LT. The Revelatory Body: Theology as Inductive Art. (Grand Rapids: Wm Eerdmans) 2015, p. 43
- Whitaker, Robin. Notes from a class on the Book of Revelation, Union Theological Seminary, New York, NY February 18, 2016