Reflection on the 4th Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, Cycle A
Acts 2:14. 36-41; 1 Pt. 2:20-25; Jn. 10:1-10.
Right in the Book of Genesis, we find Abraham in a pastoral civilization, with herds of camels, oxen and sheep. They were a nomadic people moving with their flocks along rivers where they had grazing ground. Thus the image of a shepherd was most familiar to them. The shepherd was a leader bringing the herd to grazing ground, would defend them from wild beasts, and was also a tender care giver, especially for those heavy with young. He looked for those that stray and led them back to the fold, bound up the wounded, and he would carry the weak in his arms if needed. This image of the shepherd was already transferred to Yahweh in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” God was a provider: bringing Israel to ‘fresh and green pastures’ and ‘restful waters,’ guiding them ‘along right path’ and ‘preparing a banquet,’ his ‘goodness and kindness’ followed them.
The prophet Ezekiel called attention to these actuations of God toward his people Israel in chapter 34 of his book and tells us that the Father himself will shepherd his people leading them and caring for them as he did of old: 11 “I myself will look after and tend my sheep…15 I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest,.. 16 The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal…” This was said by God as a rebuke to the human shepherds of Israel who during that time neglected to shepherd the people, who rather abused their position as leaders to exploit the people. Then God promised the coming of an ideal shepherd whom he will send.
In the New Testament, all these shall be fulfilled in Jesus: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” He repeats this in v.15, and explains it in vv. 17-18. He gives his life “so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” Our God takes up our human life, then offers it on the Cross so that we may have eternal life. Can there be more wonderful gift than that? Are we amazed at such love? Do we love him in return? Such is our Good Shepherd! “He calls his own sheep by name,” because their names are written in the Book of Life. Let me find joy in this truth and let me serve him joyfully. “He walks ahead of them, the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.” Did I always follow Jesus? Were there moments in my life when I followed other voices because it was convenient, it was pleasurable? Did I find life when I followed those voices? Jesus heals and offers eternal life, need I look for more? And yet in my life there were times I followed other shepherds. I need to repent and ask for forgiveness; and ask for the grace to be more faithful, for my Shepherd is Jesus who loves me unconditionally. There were times when like the two disciples I left Jerusalem for Emmaus, going away from the new born Church, and yet Jesus followed me and explained the Scriptures to me. Thank you, for my heart was ‘burning within me’ and I returned to Jerusalem at once. I was also a doubting Thomas at times, questioning God and his ways, yet he came and settled my doubts showing me his wounds in the hands and at his side. I was like Peter who feared for my life and I did not stand for him; I readily denied him so as not to contradict but to conform with the majority. Jesus is my risen Lord; he is my Good Shepherd. He gave up his human life to give me eternal life. Jesus, I believe, I adore, I trust and I love you. Let not my faith be only an intellectual assent to these truths, but let this faith be a conviction in my heart, so that I may trust you with my whole life, love you and serve you. Amen.