GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY YEAR A REFLECTION.
4TH SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR A.
Christians, you are called to be good shepherds for others.
- Summary of ideas of today’s Sunday readings
- The Church, the sheepfold and flock of Christ, and His instruments.
- As Christians, we are called to be good shepherds to others.
Today’s Good Shepherd Sunday year A readings revolve around the truth of faith that Christ is our Shepherd and we are his flock, called to participate in his admirable victory over sin and death (cf. Opening Prayer).
- Through baptism we enter into His sheepfold, we are integrated into His flock which is the Church He established with Peter as His vicar (1st reading: Acts 2: 14a, 36-41). After the Ascension of Our Lord, Peter and the apostles started proclaiming the necessity of repentance from our sins and of being baptized in order to receive the forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit and form part of Christ’s flock.
- Forming part of Christ’s flock, Christ’s Church entails following the footsteps of Our Lord, who suffered for us and “bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness” and made it possible for us to return to God, the “Shepherd and Guardian of our souls” (2nd reading: 1Pt 2:20b-25).
- In addition to the title of Good Shepherd, Christ applies to himself the image of the door or gate into the sheepfold of the Church. “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. (Gospel, Jn 10:1-10).”
- Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd “calls his sheep by name and leads them out.” That is why we can always exclaim with joy and confidence in Christ: “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want,” for He not only gives us his grace in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist, whose abundant table He prepares for us every Sunday (Resp. Psalm) but also promised that we “might have life and have it more abundantly.”
The shepherds and the sheep enter the sheepfold: both must enter through the door, which is Christ.
- St Augustine preached, “I am seeking to enter in among you, that is, into your heart, to preach Christ: if I were to preach other than that, I should be trying to enter by some other way. Through Christ I enter in, not to your houses but to your hearts. Through him I enter and you have willingly heard me speak of him. Why? Because you are Christ’s sheep and you have been purchased with Christ’s blood” (In Ioann. Evang., 47, 2-3).
Christ’s redemptive work is carried out and perpetuated throughout time through Christ’s Church and His instruments:
“The Church,” Vatican II teaches, “is a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ (cf. Jn 10:1-10). It is also a flock, of which God foretold that he himself would be the shepherd (cf. Is 40:11; Ezek 34:11ff.), and whose sheep, although watched over by human shepherds, are nevertheless at all times led and brought to pasture by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and prince of shepherds (cf. Jn 10:11; 1 Pet 5:4), who gave his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10:11-15)” (Lumen gentium, 6).
- Our Lord, in particular, carries out and prolongs His work of salvation through his instruments, the priestly ministry and the members of the consecrated life, through which the sheepfold continues to find abundant pastures.
- We must examine ourselves if we docilely “hear Christ’s voice” and obediently follow Him by observing His teachings through His Church. We must also pray for the holiness, fidelity and apostolic zeal of Christ’s instruments and also ask Our Lord for more vocations in His Church, be it vocations to priesthood, consecrated life or apostolic celibacy.
The good shepherd is the one who, following Christ’s example, humbly serves the others, and does not seek himself.
- “Allow me to give you a piece of advice. If ever you lose the clear light, always turn to the good shepherd. And who is the good shepherd? ‘He who enters by the door’ of faithfulness to the Church’s doctrine and does not act like the hireling ‘who sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees’; whereupon ‘the wolf snatches them and scatters them.’ Reflect on these divine words, which are not said in vain, and on the insistence of Christ who so affectionately speaks of shepherds and sheep, of the sheepfold and flock, as a practical proof of the need that our soul has of a good guide.” Saint Josemaria, Christ is Passing By, no. 34.
We should also be vigilant against those who call themselves pastors but do not belong to Christ’s sheepfold for they lead the sheep unto themselves and not to Christ and His One True Church. Only the one who leads the sheep to the true “door” who is Christ will be a “good shepherd.” Anyone who tries to lead them to another place is a “charlatan” who shouldn’t be trusted, since “he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber” (v. 1).
- Jesus says clearly that a bad shepherd “climbs in” by another way, using a word that implies trying to enter a place where one shouldn’t go. Thus He warns against the danger of “making use of” Christ and the Church and of the position that one holds in it for personal gain.
- The prophet Ezekiel had already denounced this attitude: “Ho, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the crippled you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought” (Ezek 34:2-4).
In a homily given in 2009 for the inauguration of the Year for Priests, Benedict XVI, said: “How can we forget, in this regard, that nothing causes more suffering for the Church, the Body of Christ, than the sins of her pastors, especially the sins of those who become ‘thieves and robbers’ of the sheep (cf. Jn 10:1 ff.), who lead them astray by their own private teachings, or ensnare them in the toils of sin and death? Dear priests, the summons to conversion and to trust in divine Mercy also applies to us; we too must humbly, sincerely and unceasingly implore the Heart of Jesus to preserve us from the terrifying risk of endangering the very people we are obliged to save.”(Benedict XVI, Homily on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Friday 19 June 2009.) Hence it is important for all of us to pray that priests truly be holy and that good shepherds may never be lacking in the Church.
We must not forget, however, that as Christians, we are called to be good shepherds to the people God has placed within our reach: parents to their children, siblings to their co-siblings, friends to their friends, teachers to their students, leaders to their constituents…and the list goes on.
May we always remember of this great task and responsibility which Our Lord placed on our shoulders to bring the people around us to heaven through our prayers, sacrifices, good counsel and example and coherent Christian life. For in the end, our life will be be a failure if we do not reach our heavenly goal which Our Lord gained for us and to which He wants to lead us through His Church and His instruments.
Almighty ever-living God, tend us to a share in the joys of heaven, so that the humble flock may reach where the brave Shepherd has gone before.
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