25th April 2021

Why Was Jesus Called the Good Shepherd?


SUNDAY, FOURTH WEEK OF EASTER

Reading 1: Acts 4:8-12 Peter, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” tells the Elders that his healing of the cripple was done in the name of the Jesus they killed.

Reading 2: 1 Jn 3:1-2 John tells his Christians (and us) that we are God’s children now, alive with the same divine life that is in the Father.

Gospel: Jn 10:11-18 Jesus tells his enemies and us that he is the good shepherd who knows his flock, who loves each one, and is willing to die for each.


 

JESUS, THE GOOD SHEPHERD

 

In the first reading, we see that the members of the council were amazed at the effective preaching of the illiterate disciples of Jesus and the miraculous cure of the lame beggar. This put them into confusion, fear and anger; they felt their authority being threatened as they had denied the resurrection of Jesus. As Jesus had promised, Peter and John were filled with extraordinary wisdom and courage when questioned by them. The leaders were as hostile to the apostles as they were to the Lord Jesus, but the common people were in favour of them and the new Christian community.

The disciples could offer only one evidence for their arguments: their works. Even today what constitutes the sturdiest witness to the Christian faith are the works of charity the believers perform – acts of healing, teaching, encouraging and helping people. A prejudiced society in these days as in earlier times would like to deny this truth, or at least attribute negative motives to it. Thus, the bearers of Jesus’ message are threatened, harassed, and opposed, and at times, even eliminated. Yet, his disciples witness boldly to his resurrection and the miraculous works done in his name. We too are called to witness Christ in our daily living through love towards our neighbour without distinction, even if it should cost us our standing in society and the comfort of our lives.

The second reading invites us all to live our lives as worthy children of God. He loved us and made us his own in and through his son Jesus Christ, who opened the doors of heaven to us, that we may enter into the eternal glory that is promised to us as our inheritance.

The Gospel speaks about Jesus, the Good Shepherd. The metaphor of the “sheep”, an everyday feature of Jewish life, pervades the Old Testament. God himself is called Israel’s “Shepherd”, and they are the sheep of his pasture. Jesus saw himself as embodying the characteristics and expectations attached to this metaphor as the good shepherd par excellence. The sheep recognize his voice and follow him. He calls them by their name, leading them out, and goes before them.

Jesus becomes very specific and personal in illuminating the meaning of this metaphor when he says “I am the door of the sheep”. There is singleness, exclusiveness and personal relationship in it. He further says that those who enter through him will be saved and will have life in its abundance. Moreover, they will live in liberty, freely going “in and out,” and they will be satisfied, “for he provides pasture”. He is the good shepherd, our savior. He leads us in and leads us out. Under his care we find pasture. But, the condition is that we must enter through him. Are we ready to enter through the door of Jesus to inherit eternal life? Do we believe that he is our good shepherd?

Jesus is not “a” good shepherd, as though he were one of many in that class. He is “the” good shepherd. He stands in contrast to the thieves and robbers who steal, kill, destroy, and flee. Jesus is the good shepherd primarily because he gives his life for the sheep as we daily encounter him in the Eucharist. The good shepherd is he who stays by his sheep, defends them, and is even willing to die for them. The language of John 10:11-18 is that of love. Jesus laid down his life for the sheep as an amazing expression of his love. There is no greater love a man can have than to lay down his life for those whom he loves. He knows his sheep and they “know” him with the knowledge that unites in the most intimate way those who love each other. Our Blessed Lord has paid with his life for our salvation. Do we believe that we are his sheep, the sheep saved by him? Do we allow him to be the good shepherd through us?

The pandemic and lockdowns, have made us realize what a great blessing it is to have churches, to have priests, and to have religious. On this day of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, let us specially pray for young men and women to say ‘yes’ to God’s call, to the priesthood and religious life.


Responsorial Psalm: Ps 118: 1,8-9,21-23,26,28-29 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.


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