>Today is the fourth of Sunday of Easter, traditionally called “Good Shepherd Sunday.” The gospel from John focused on Jesus’ exhortation that he is the shepherd and he knows his sheep, that those who enter the fold by the gate are true sheep, and those who enter via the window or over the fence, as it were are theives and bandits.
It’s hard to look at this text in context. As one of my friends and parishioners noted this morning at coffee hour, even during Jesus’ time it might have been hard for the followers of Jesus to get the allegory of Jesus being the shepherd of a flock, afterall, they were poor urban folk living in Jerusalem, fishermen of Capernaum or Magdala, and Jesus was a carpenter from Nazareth.
Shepherds lived a lonely, solitary life. They brought the sheep out to the pastures beyond the villages and towns, and stayed there all day, watching over their charges to keep them safe from wolves and/or poachers, sometimes staying away from civilization for days and weeks. The shepherds knew their flock, and the sheep knew their shepherd. The shepherd attends his flock with the diligence and care of a father for his children.
Knowing this, seeing Jesus as the Good Shepherd isn’t impossible. Jesus came into the world to gather God’s children to him, to bring them to the fold, the Kingdom, and lead them to a way of life that it is harmonious with creation. He warns his first century listeners to be wary of those who claim to have the answers, to have the right way of life, for they are the thieves and bandits who jump over the wall or go through a window to get into the fold, rather than follow Jesus through the gate.
Today, the shepherd is as foreign to us as a knight on horseback or a Hobbit. We don’t have occasion to see them on our commutes to work and school, not most of us, anyway. Still, the message Jesus offers is worth noting. It’s in our best interest to be wary of those who say they have the answers, the secrets to life, those who invite us to get rich quick, to be the alpha dog, the leader of the pack. Strange, as I was typing this, a television commercial was playing in the living room and the jingle went something like, “I want it all . . . I want it all . . . I want it now.” Is this the message we want to convey? Having the most doesn’t get you into the Kingdom, having all the answers to the most puzzling questions in the universe may get you a spot on a game show, but it doesn’t guarantee a place at the table, or a room in the Father’s house. Hearing the Word, sharing it, living a life in right relationship and taking right action, a life modelling the gospel to one’s best ability invites us to join the fold, to enter by the gate. In this way, we can be shepherds like Jesus. Or if we must be sheep, we will know who our shepherd is.
Alleluia, He is risen.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.