4th Sunday of Easter (C)

“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me” (Jn. 10:27).

Shepherds in the Old Testament: In the Old Testament, the image of the

 Shepherd is often applied to God as well as to the leaders of the people.  The book of Exodus represents Yahweh several times as a Shepherd.  The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel compare Yahweh’s care and protection of His people to that of a shepherd.  “He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with the young.” (Is. 40:11).  Ezekiel represents God as a loving Shepherd who searches diligently for the lost sheep.  The prophets often used harsh words to scold the selfish and insincere shepherds (or leaders) of their day.  Jer. 23:1:“Doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of my pasture to be destroyed and scattered.” (Ez. 34: 2):  “Trouble for the shepherdsof Israel who feed themselves!  Shepherds ought to feed their flock.”

 The Good Shepherd in the New Testament:Introducing himself as the Good

Shepherd of his flock, Jesus makes three claims in today’s Gospel.   

1) He knows his sheep and his sheep hear his voice:  Jesus is the “Good Shepherd”, who knows them by name individually and personally, in all their joy and blessings, in all their trials and sorrows, in all their wanderings and stumbling and in all their need and lack. He loves us as we are, with all our limitations, and he expects us to return his love by keeping his words.  2) He gives eternal life to us, his sheepby receiving us into his sheepfold and giving us Faith through Baptism, and then he strengthens that Faith in Confirmation.  He supplies food for our souls in the Holy Eucharist and in the Divine words of the Holy Bible.  He makes our society holy by the Sacraments of Matrimony and the priesthood (Holy Orders.  3) He protects his sheepby placing them in the loving hands of his Almighty Father.  Without him to guide us and protect us, weare an easy prey for the spiritual wolvesof this world, including Satan and his minions.

In chapter ten of John’s Gospel, Jesus adds two more roles to those of the Good Shepherd.  He goes in search of stray lambs and heals the sick ones.  Jesus heals the wounds of our souls through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and strengthens us in illness and old age with the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.  Jesus dies for his sheep:  Just as the shepherds of ancient days protected their sheep from wild animals and thieves by risking their own lives, so Jesus died in expiation for the sins of all people.

The Risen Christ is the good and strong Shepherd who guides us towards the joy of eternal life. He gives us the true meaning of life and helps us to build it and realize it fully. We can feel the deep and concrete love of Jesus, because He knows the thoughts and doubts of our heart. He comes looking for us, always. Jesus knows us, cares for us, heals us, brings us to safety in the community of the believers on this earth and in the blessedness of the children of God in eternity. Jesus puts so much trust in us; he always renews it and with his trust we can do many things. The important thing is to follow him. He is the way, the truth and the life. How to follow him? In faith, in love, in listening to his word, in building up every day the response to the vocation he has given us, in love for neighbor and the needy in body and spirit because it is in the neighbor that Jesus is present, speaks to us, urges us to follow Him, the good Shepherd.

The Good Shepherd, passionate and provident: Jesus knows and loves every one of his followers. It should not sound odd if He calls us sheep because he allowed for himself to be called “lamb” so that his duty to “take away the sins of the world” would become our mission, that is to take his forgiveness to all people.In today’s gospel He speaks about us as his flock and about him as the good shepherd who gives his life for his sheep. He never relinquishes his sheep and loves them to the point of giving his life for them. Moved by his passion for us, He didn’t hesitate to face the passion of the Cross. He is the good shepherd in love with life so that we can have eternal life. It is natural to wonder why we, the lucky flock, would abandon this Way and depart on roads leading to ravines. He, the infinitely good, divine, merciful and loyal shepherd, searches us, calls us by name and when He finds us, put us on his shoulders and leads us to the eternal pasture of heaven. (1 Pt. 2:25)

The people of God have been placed in a very large field that is often called the world. Many voices are calling us to come and join them. The voice of materialism wants us to deny our faith in the supernatural and believe only in the physical world. The voice of consumerism calls us to fulfill our envy by overspending on vacations, cars, clothing and a home. The voice of entertainment wants to fill our lives with media driven flashes that grab our attention, isolate us from our family and friends and then leave us with nothing but an oversized bill. 

Psalm 23 is David’s famous picture of God as The Good Shepherd: 

The Lord is my Shepherd…that’s Relationship! 

There is nothing I shall want…that’s Supply! 

Fresh and Green are the pastures where He gives me repose…that’s Rest! 

Near restful waters He leads me… that’s Refreshment.

He restores my drooping spirit… that’s Healing!

He guides me along the right path… that’s Guidance!

He is true to his name… that’s Purpose!      

If I should walk in the valley of darkness… that’s Challenge!

No evil would I fear… that’s Assurance!  

You are there … that’s Faithfulness! 

With your rod and your staff comfort me… that’s Shelter! 

You have prepared a table before me in the presence of mine enemies… that’s Hope! 

You have anointed my head with oil… that’s consecration!      

My cup is overflowing … that’s Abundance! 

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…that’s Blessing!

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord…that’s Security! 

Forever…that’s Eternity!