by Fr W. Nkomo
Click here for Sunday’s readings
1st Reading Acts 2:14a. 36-41,
Responsorial Psalm 23:1-6,
2nd Reading 1Peter 2:20b-25
Gospel John 10:1-10
Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd Among Us: Who Gives Us Life and Reveals To Us God’s Care for His People.
This Sunday’s Gospel presents us with the familiar image of the Good Shepherd. When speaking of the sheep of God’s flock, Jesus uses several images to describe the attitude of those who look after the flock. All of those images focus on the theme of life; the life which he the Good Shepherd gives, preserves and nourishes.
In the Old Testament one would note that the lack of leadership on the part of the bad shepherds, brought forth the hope of one day having a shepherd who would be really good and sincere and who would be like God in the way of leading his people. (Is 40:11; Ez 34:11-16) Thus the Psalm says, “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want!” (Ps 23:1-6). This means that for any shepherd to be the good shepherd it is important to remain close to God, to listen to Him who is the model shepherd.
Jesus turns this hope into reality and presents himself as the Good Shepherd, different from the thieves who were robbing the people. Jesus does this by presenting them with two images; the shepherd and the door of the sheepfold. As we all know the flock always have a kraal which serves as a refuge in which the flock rests after a day’s journey in search of pastures and water. Jesus in the gospel tells us that two types of people will approach the kraal; there is one that enters by the door and another that climbs in by another way. Their identity is deduced from the way they enter the kraal, they will know the difference by the way they act. The one who climbs into the kraal is a thief whose intention is to steal, slaughter and destroy. The shepherd always enters by the door. This is what Jesus is in our life, the shepherd whom we recognise by his voice and follow him because we know that he leads us to life.
This closeness and familiarity between the voice calling and the trust of the ear of the one who hears should take us to the experience of the disciples to Emmaus in last week’s gospel in which Jesus presented himself as one who comes close to us, who shares with us the word of God and warms us up with his care and compassion. That feeling of being connected with him who leads us with love and compassion.
He also uses the image of the door to the sheepfold. We are told that those who were listening, could not understand what “entering by the door” meant. Jesus explains: “I am the door of the sheep. All others who have come are thieves and robbers.” Jesus does not only offer himself as a door to life but also to salvation as he says that “if anyone enters by me he will be saved.” Hence it is clear that Jesus is teaching about something beyond life as we know it but eternal life for which he will lay down his life for on the cross. Jesus offers us a sure hope of life, care and nurturing. In fact he reveals himself as one who is interested in our welfare, as one who will never abandon us to our fate.
One may then ask, Father! How can I make the distinction between the shepherd and the thief? Jesus gives us a basic criterion for discerning between the shepherd and the thief, that is, the defence of the life of the sheep. The way that the person approaching the sheep act tells the sheep about his identity. Jesus says: “I have come so that they may have life, and have it to the full!” Jesus the Good Shepherd is ready to risk his own life for the sake of his sheep (10:15). To enter by the gate, means imitating Jesus’ attitude of defending the life of his sheep. Jesus tells us that the shepherd depends on the sheep’s ability to recognise his voice and trust him enough to follow him. This mutual understanding between Jesus and the sheep (the Christian) yields salvation. Jesus is the only source of salvation.
That is what He asks of us today; to recognise his voice and to follow Him, the risen One, as the only sure guide that gives meaning to our life. On this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, let us pray especially for our priests who may feel like shepherds without sheep at this time. Let us pray that they may not be discouraged in their shepherding role which they do at the moment from a distance because they can’t come close. We pray also for ourselves that we may recognise them by their voice as they offer us reflections on daily basis via social media. May Jesus the Good shepherd guide and protect us during time of confusion and discomfort.