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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Good Shepherd Sunday

Good Shepherd Sunday
Fourth Sunday of Easter

The Good Shepherd is risen! He who laid down his life for his sheep, who died for his flock, he is risen, alleluia.” Communion Antiphon

The Gospel according John

Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice;
I know them,
and they follow me.
I give them eternal life,
and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me,
is greater than all,
and no one can take them
out of the Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one.” John 10:27-30

The job of shepherd was deeply woven in to the history of God’s people so it is quite understandable that the term shepherd would be used symbolically in the bible to describe different people – kings and leaders (2 Samuel 5:2; Ezekiel 34:2), the Lord God (Psalm 23; 79:13; 80:1; 95:7; 100:3; Ezekiel 34:10-16), Simon Peter (John 21:15-17), and Jesus, the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-30).

A shepherd existed to meet the needs of his sheep, who were
considered to be not very intelligent, clumsy, and easily confused. It was the shepherd’s job to feed, care for, guide and protect their flock, a difficult and tiring job. Without a shepherd the sheep were “truly lost.”

It was a regular practice for shepherds to bring a number of flocks to a common sheepfold at the end of the day, where the flocks would be guarded by a hired gatekeeper allowing the shepherd a well deserved rest. In the morning each shepherd would return to sheepfold to call their flock, the gatekeeper would open the gate, and the sheep would come out of the pen following the voice of their individual master who would lead them out to pasture.

In John Chapter 10 Jesus is given the title the Good Shepherd. He knows His sheep and His sheep know Him. Jesus gave every one of His sheep free will and He will not force, cajole, or manipulate any of them to follow Him. Instead, as the Good Shepherd He waits patiently for His sheep to recognize His voice and return to His fold.

As the Good Shepherd, Jesus wants His sheep not just to survive but to thrive, He “came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) He does not ration out nourishment to His sheep but brings them to “green waters… right path…[His] rod and staff give courage…[their] cup overflows with goodness and love….all the days of [their] life.” (Psalm 23) Jesus is the Good Shepherd and no one can “take them out of [His] hand.” (John 10:29)

Jesus the Good Shepherd comes to us and walks with us wherever we are on our journey. He carries us on His shoulders during our trials and seeks us when we have lost our way. He knows us better than we know ourselves, as He “formed [our] inmost being; knit [us] in [our] mother’s womb,” (Psalm 139:13) and in spite of ourselves and our stubbornness He always loves us unconditionally.

In today’s Gospel Jesus is making a promise to his followers of eternal life, an offering of an abiding relationship with the living God and membership in His flock. Today may Jesus the Good Shepherd guide us into the pastures of peace and joy, for by following the risen Lord we are assured that goodness and kindness will follow us all the days of our life.

Jesus the Good Shepherd,
Help me hear and know your voice.

For devotional items related to the Catholic Church, please visit Lynn's Timeless Treasures.  

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