Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture

4th Sunday of Easter

4th Sunday of Easter


30 April 2023

Acts 2: 14, 36-41; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:2-25; John 10:1-10

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Every now and again, I am struck by the enormity, grandeur and complexity of our world and the simplicity, boldness and intimacy of Jesus’ call to follow him as the good shepherd, the one who is the way, the truth and the life. During the week, I was walking through one of my favourite national parks listening to a podcast about the latest discoveries from the Webb telescope. The natural surrounds of the gum trees touched by raindrops and tingling sunlight were comforting. A scientist was speaking with almost childish enthusiasm about the mind blowing revelations from the telescope. NASA’s media release on Tuesday stated: ‘The James Webb Space Telescope has begun to shed light on formative years in the history of the universe that have thus far been beyond reach: the formation and assembly of galaxies. For the first time, a protocluster of seven galaxies has been confirmed at a distance that astronomers refer to as redshift 7.9, or a mere 650 million years after the big bang.’  ‘The precise measurements captured by Webb’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph were key to confirming the galaxies’ collective distance and the high velocities at which they are moving within a halo of dark matter – more than two million miles per hour (about one thousand kilometers per second).’[1]

This really is mind blowing stuff.  I recalled Tom Holland’s observation in his Theos Lecture last year:

‘In 1638, the young John Milton – on a tour of Italy – had visited Florence. “There it was,” he later wrote, “that I found and visited the famous Galileo grown old, a prisoner to the Inquisition, for thinking in Astronomy otherwise than the Franciscan and Dominican licencers thought.” It was not the sun that revolved around the earth, so Galileo had taught, but the earth that revolved around the sun. Time came to prove his hypothesis right. The sun, however, did not long maintain its privileged position in the map of the cosmos. Today, we know that it is an undistinctive star in an undistinctive corner of an undistinctive galaxy in a universe so stupefyingly vast that it can hurt the brain even to try and comprehend its size. Set against the icy immensities of space, what is humanity, then, but the merest speck of a speck of dust?  What scope is left us as a species to claim any dignity at all? “In science,” as the astronomer Seth Shostak has put it, “if you think you’re special, you probably aren’t.”’[2]

So here we are: each of us an individual speck as part of the merest speck of a speck of dust.  And yet we believe that each of us has an inherent dignity, that each of us is called by God, and that each of us is being shepherded by Jesus the Good Shepherd.  Each of us can make life choices that matter, ultimately.  Each of us can lead others, for good or bad.  Each of us can be led astray by the stranger or the thief.  Each of us can be led to fertile pasture by the good shepherd.  We are worldly enough to know that the one who climbs the fence to get into the sheepyard is probably up to no good.  The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd.  We know the shepherd’s voice. We follow and are reassured that we are entering into good pastures that matter here and now as we look up to the sun which is merely an undistinctive star in an undistinctive corner of an undistinctive galaxy.

This Good Shepherd Sunday is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. We pray for those who will be our shepherds in the years ahead as the Webb Telescope opens up to us the frontiers of our cosmos, recalling the words of Pope Francis: ‘Vocation is “the interplay between divine choice and human freedom”, a dynamic and exciting relationship between God and the human heart. The gift of vocation is like a divine seed that springs up in the soil of our existence, opens our hearts to God and to others, so that we can share with them the treasure we ourselves have found.’[3] May we relish the treasures that our astronomers are discovering each day, and may we treasure the consolation that the good shepherd is leading us through the sheepgate to the finest pastures.  The shepherd invites each of us to show others the way, in who we are and what we do.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures the Lord gives me repose;
beside restful waters the Lord leads me;
the Lord refreshes my soul.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

The Lord guides me in right paths
for the sake of the Lord’s name.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side.
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

[1] NASA, ‘Webb Reveals Early-Universe Prequel to Huge Galaxy Cluster’, Media release, 25 April 2023, available at[

2] Tom Holland, ‘Humanism: a Christian heresy’, 2022 Theos Lecture, available at