Acts 4: 8-12; 1Jn 3: 1-2; Jn 10: 11-18
Psalm 23 is the most popular psalm on the good shepherd. Jesus in our gospel today tells us that He came precisely so that we may live with that life, peace and happiness described in Psalm 23. Part of it, I will read to you:
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures He gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me; He refreshes my soul. He guides me in right paths for His name’s sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage.”
But I read something that is a parody on Psalm 23 the way it is stated. This way of life is living in a way that leads to death instead of life, peace and happiness. I will read to you:
“The TV is my shepherd; I shall not want. It makes me to lie down on the sofa. It leads me away from the faith; it destroys my soul. It leads me to the path of sex and violence for the advertiser’s sake. Even though I walk in the shadow of Christian responsibilities; there will be interruption, for the TV is with me. Its cable and remote control, they comfort me. It prepares a commercial for me in the midst of my worldliness; and anoints my head with secular humanism and consumerism. My covetousness runs over; surely ignorance and laziness shall follow me all the days of my life. And I shall dwell in the house of wretchedness watching TV forever.”
This middle Sunday of Easter season is traditionally celebrated as Good Shepherd Sunday. We lift up that particular image of Jesus and the way of thinking about God’s care for us. We hear the deeply comforting words of Psalm 23. We are reminded that Jesus not only protects us in our darkest hour but that He freely laid down His life for us. What greater love can be imagined isn’t it?
This image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is one that is well known and so it should be. When we think of Him in this image it brings to our minds all kinds of images which recall the ways in which our Lord cares for us. As stated in Psalm 23, God Himself is depicted in lovely ways as the shepherd of His people. Perhaps most significantly are the promises which God makes through His prophets that, since no one else is worthy or able to assume the responsibility, He will Himself come and be His people’s shepherd. In His care, people will be safe and they will be contented.
With this in mind we hear Jesus claim we cannot help but be struck by the significance of it. His claim is that He is God come to His people, as promised, to be their shepherd. He is the fulfiller of the long hopes of God’s people.
As a background, why Jesus used this image of the Good Shepherd? In Palestine the shepherd brought the sheep into the sheepfold every night. It was a circular stone wall with an opening or door where the sheep entered. Once the sheep were inside for the night the shepherd slept in that opening or door all night. The sheep could not get out without stepping over the shepherd’s body which meant they would not get out at all during the night. Jesus is the gate and anyone who enters through Him will be safe and will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture. Others steal and kill and destroy but Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
Fr. Jerry Orbos, SVD in his homily book, Inquirer Moments Cycle B, said that Jesus could have called Himself as the Good Manager but He chooses to be called the Good Shepherd? Why? It is because a good manager is one who manages well. It is not that the manager is lacking in zeal but a manager, more often than not, is a hard worker. In fact a manager is so overwhelmed with works at times that he can hardly manage.
Fr. Orbos made some descriptions of a shepherd in comparison to a manager. First, the shepherd has time or makes time for his sheep. While a manager will find ways and means to manage his time, the shepherd is committed to be really present all the time, if not, most of the time. For a true shepherd, presence is something that is non-negotiable and cannot be delegated.
Second, a shepherd gives quality time. The manager, precisely because he is in the business of managing, will sometimes go to the extent of managing even people, their feelings and their perceptions. He tries to “make for lost time.” But sooner or later, his lack of commitment and dedication will show. The Good Shepherd goes about His task with no stress and in peace precisely because he knows and his people know that he is really there for them.
Third, the shepherd works overtime. A manager is very calculating and exacting of time. For a manager, time is a precious commodity that is seen in terms of productivity and output. His constant battle cry is accomplishing the most, with the least effort and within the shortest time. He will rarely go for overtime. The shepherd sees time also as a precious commodity but in terms of input and love. He does not take short cuts. He waits patiently and he does not mind working overtime. He really doesn’t have a battle cry. He only has a song: “What is time without love? What is love without time?”
Lastly, the shepherd will be there “’til the end of time.” A manager is concerned about projects, deadlines, return on investments (ROI), quotas and timetables. He is for the “short time” only. A shepherd is committed for the long haul. His project is for a lifetime. His deadline is eternity. His return on investment out of this world and His timetable is forever. He is for “the long time.” He is for daily dying to self. He is for forever.
Whether we think of the image of the Good Shepherd or not, whether we like it or not, we are shepherds too. We lead other people to verdant pastures. As a parent, teacher, relative, friend or companion we influence people for the better or the worse. Even a little child is a shepherd for his parents. Many fathers have looked at their children’s eyes and have seen a trust which prevented them from going astray. So what are we, a manger or a shepherd?
We pray that we may listen to the voice of Jesus as He calls, that we may enter the sheepfold through Him and be safe and have life and live it to the fullest.
See Today’s Readings: Cycle B
Back to: Fourth Sunday of Easter