CHRIST THE GOOD SHEPHERD
Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year A)
Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 23; 1Pet 2:20b-25; John 10:1-10
Take a short trip back to the Old Testament. Most of the people that God appointed as leaders of Israel were professional shepherds: Jacob, Moses, David, etc. Apart from the fact that sometimes, sheep are stubborn and so need a man of patience, they are equally fragile and so need devoted protection. A good shepherd is always ready to lay down his life for the sake of his sheep (see 1Sam 17:34-36). See how this attitude reflects the action of the shepherd in the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:4-6).
Note also that the sheepfold is a place of safety for the sheep. The Israelites normally make use of a common sheepfold for shepherds in the same area with only one door in and out of the house. They take turns to guard the sheepfold. The shepherds bring their sheep in at night and come in the morning for them. The sheep belonging to each shepherd listen to the shepherd’s voice and follow him. The shepherd of each flock provides all that that flock needs as recounted by the Psalmist of today (Psalm 23).
Those pictures we painted above would help us understand the messages from today’s celebration of the Good Shepherd Sunday. Both the First Reading and the Gospel present Jesus as the one who is destined to save his people. In the Gospel reading of today, Jesus calls himself the door to the sheepfold through which one enters and is saved (John 10:9). Anyone who walks through that door is protected. That has an important message for Peter’s audience in the Second Reading just as it has for us today.
Peter was addressing a group of slaves who were converted to Christianity but were passing through great difficulty in the hands of their masters. The simple message is that they must look up to the Master, Jesus both for protection and provision, and as a model. Christ himself suffered patiently in order to win our salvation, and by his wounds we are healed (1Pet 2:24). Every day, we too face many trials and oppression for doing the right thing. Peter equally speaks to us today bear those trials patiently while waiting upon Jesus, the Good Shepherd for our protection and salvation.
Beyond the consolation that today’s celebration has for those who suffer in any way, it calls on those who are regarded as the shepherds of God’s flock to learn from the Chief Shepherd, Jesus, on how to take care of the flock. Just as Jesus died for the sake of the sheep, the shepherds must be ready to leave aside their joy, comfort, and even their life for the sake of those placed under them.
We all have the duty to join hand in supporting the shepherds to actualize this goal. The best support we can ever give is prayer. Instead of sitting down to analyse and condemn your priests and other leaders, kneel down and pray for them. Pray in a special way that God may always give us shepherds after his own heart.
The sheepfold is a place of safety for the sheep. The shepherds lead the sheep into it at the end of the day through the entrance which is well guarded. The thief will not follow this entrance in order to evade security hurdles. But the shepherds follow the way that leads through the entrance.
Heaven is our sheepfold and Jesus is the Good Shepherd as well as the door that leads into the sheepfold (cf. John 10:7, 11). Whoever listens to his voice and follows him is led to safety (John 10:9). Are you ready to follow him?
Be careful! Many of those who pose themselves as shepherds (pastors) have only come to lead the sheep to doom (John 10:1). Look before you leap. Make sure the person you follow leads you through the Way, that is Jesus.
Remember to pray to the Good Shepherd for our country Nigeria and for the world especially at this trying time. He will surely not abandon us his sheep.
Have a happy and safe Sunday under the protection of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Amen. Peace be with you.