May 7 – Fourth Sunday of Easter / Good Shepherd Sunday
If we were to advertise the job of a good shepherd, I believe very few could apply for such a job, because of the job description. A shepherd literally laid down his life for his sheep by caring for them 24/7. He was responsible for the safety and welfare of the flock. He has to forego his sleep lest the wolves and robbers take advantage of the night time. He has to foot the medical bills. “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (Jn. 10:11) That is all too much!
Both the Old and New Testaments use the image of a shepherd and his flock to describe the unique relationship of God with Israel and of Christ with Christians. St. Peter’s first sermon, given on the day of Pentecost, reminds his Jewish listeners that they have crucified their true Shepherd. Therefore they need to receive forgiveness of their sin by getting baptized in the name of Jesus and acknowledge the risen Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The Psalm today (Ps 23) is wonderful. It introduces Yahweh as the Good Shepherd of Israel Who cares for us, His sheep, providing for our needs. David, the King of Israel who was himself once a shepherd, could not find better words to explain the deepest concern of God than using those words of Psalm 23.
In the second reading Peter points out that Jesus, as a good shepherd, does not simply teach us how to live the fullness of life but He shows us the way by living the path Himself: The path that took Him to death on the cross. By His wounds He heals the world and transforms the world. Just as a shepherd takes care of and feeds his flock, so Christ nourishes the spiritual life of the faithful by His body and blood and through His Body the Church in the sacraments that we receive. In Gospel, Jesus refers to Himself as the “Shepherd” and the “Gate,” meaning that it is through Him that we know the Father and receive eternal life. This explains why we must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins so that we will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Good Shepherd always watches over those given to Him and draws them to follow Him because they know His voice and he takes them to safety. Jesus as good shepherd he watches over us constantly. He keeps us nourished and safe from what may harm us by means of the Sacrament of Penance and the Eucharist.
What must the Lord’s sheep do then? They must hear the Shepherd’s voice and follow Him, observing His life so as to become like Him. “No disciple is above his teacher,” said Jesus. “But when perfected, everyone will be like his teacher.” The obedient sheep of Jesus Christ treasure His every word and ponder every aspect of His life as revealed in the Gospels, so as to be able to say with St. Paul: “It is now no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me.”(Gal. 2:20).
And how must the sheep behave towards one another? St. John tells us in this well-known passage from his first epistle: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God. And everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. If God has so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:7-11). As God’s beloved we inherit the gracious goodness we are offered. Taking good care of our brothers and sisters as Jesus took care of us by his death and resurrection to give us hope.
Following the Good Shepherd is about loving others. Take care of your family, your community, your Church. One of the great criticisms of Christianity is that so many of us Christians are poor lovers, and we treat each other without mercy and forgiveness of Christ. Think about that! Give to others the love, forgiveness and mercy you receive from Christ. Do what Jesus is doing for you. The voice of a true shepherd is clear and distinctive: “Do not be afraid, I am with you. Come to me and I will give you rest. Love one another as I have loved you.”
Let us be grateful to what Jesus has done for us and continues to listen to Him and put into action the love He has shown us.