The Fourth Sunday of Easter has my favorite story of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Its my also my favorite image of Jesus. It’s the perfect image for us today. (See Scripture below for your reflection.)
Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”
Jesus says “I am” 45 times in the gospel of John. Some of the outstanding ones are: I am the bread of life. (Jn 6:35) I am the light of the world (Jn 8:12) I am the resurrection and the life (Jn 11: 25 and I am the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6).
In Jesus’ time some looked down on shepherds as outcasts ~ not usually welcome in the towns. Their work was demanding and perilous. They were sometimes responsible for herds numbering in the thousands. They contested with hyenas, jackals, wolves, bears, human enemies, the burning heat of the day, and bitter cold of night. If something happened to a sheep, he had to produce proof it was not his fault. The law laid it down: If torn by beasts, let him produce the evidence.” (Exodus 22:13)
It took me a long time to realize that shepherds walked down the road ahead of their flock. And the sheep simply followed. They just responded to his voice.
What a wonderful model for leadership of any kind. Not coercing. Not goading. Not threatening. Not saying “If you don’t follow, you’re going to hell.”
Jesus just wants to lead the way. He wants to BE the way because he walked the path ahead of us. He knows what human life is about.
And more than that, he says “I know mine and mine know me.”
He’s talking about knowing us personally for who we are inside, who we really are. He delights in those under his care. He rejoices in us. He wants to be very close to us.
And he wants us to know him personally and intimately, too.
That’s enough. For those of us who know, who realize, that God loves us, lifts us up, supports us, wants us to be who we are, that is just enough.
This is the Jesus I know and love. Jesus has invited me into a personal relationship with him and that makes all the difference in the way I live and love.
I, too, have always wanted to shepherd like that. To be an example to others. To lead and to know and care for those in my life.
This gospel says theirs a difference between a Good Shepherd and a hired hand who abandons the flock when things get rough. The Good Shepherd will leave the flock and search for the lost sheep and bring them home.
I love this image of Jesus. He’s my model of what a priest should be like — or a parent or a teacher or a coach. I just hope that I can continue to be a good shepherd.
Pope Francis has challenged his priests to go out among their flocks and know the people they serve like “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep”.
many of us have the role of shepherding others.
May we rejoice in that sacred honor and privilege
and do it well, not for profit but for love.
May we never betray that trust.
May we always delight in also being cared for by You.
To You be honor and glory and praise!
Now before you go, enjoy this version of Psalm 23. Be sure to enter full screen. Click here.
And here are all of today’s Mass readings. Click here.(The USCCB website was down.)
Have a great day as we continue to celebrate our joyous Easter season.