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The Good Shepherd leads us all

Readings for April 20-21, Fourth Sunday of Easter

By Fr. Jack Treloar, SJ | For On Mission

As one reads the Gospel according to John, one discovers a number of phrases in which Jesus describes himself, beginning with the words, “I am.” For example, one reads, “I am the bread of life” (Jn 6:35). “I am the light of the world” (Jn 8:12 ). “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6 ). Finally, he simply says, “I am (Jn 8:58). The Gospel reading this week includes another one of the “I am” statements: “I am the good shepherd” (Jn 10:11).

A number of years ago a friend voiced strong objections to the image of Christ as a shepherd. He was not so much disgusted with Jesus as shepherd as he was with the implication that we are sheep, because sheep have no sense. It was his fierce independent spirit that kept him from appreciating the splendor of Jesus as our shepherd.

What are the attributes of the good shepherd as Jesus describes them in our Gospel passage? As we look at these characteristics, remember that each one applies to Jesus himself in an ultimate way.

A good shepherd gives up his life for the sheep. This should immediately cause us to recall the events of the Passion and death of Jesus. We are so important to him that he makes the ultimate sacrifice of death on the cross to achieve our safety and redemption. 

During the course of his own life, he also spent time giving up his life in small ways. He taught the people how to live lives of generosity, care and concern. He protected people from injustice and oppression.

He taught his disciples about the Father and his desire for universal salvation.

Jesus contrasts the care of the good shepherd to a hired man who seeks only his own profit. The hireling seeks his own well-being and not the good of the sheep. When danger approaches, he runs away; his main concern is the money he earns.

There is a deep bond between the sheep and the good shepherd. They know each other well. Jesus tells us that his bond with his flock is as deep as the bond that he has with the Father. In other words, through our relationship with Jesus the Good Shepherd we have an infinite relationship with the Father.

The image of the good shepherd is not only for the people who hear the Gospel directly from Jesus, but it also applies to all people of whatever country, ethnic group or race. We are all meant to belong to the fold of the Good Shepherd. He leads all of us. We all hear his voice. He lays down his life for all of us.

Jesus’ description of himself as the Good Shepherd tells us about the love and care God has for every one of us. It tells us of our ultimate dependence on God undercutting all false independence by pointing out that we have no power without him. We all need the Good Shepherd to achieve our goal of life with God.

The readings for Sunday, April 21, can be found at Fourth Sunday of Easter | USCCB.

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