Based on the Gospel of John 10:27-30
Good Shepherd Sunday! This Sunday’s Gospel is just four verses long – taken from chapter 10 of John’s Gospel referring to Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Jesus often used the images of shepherd and sheep to explain his teaching.
In the time of Jesus, the shepherd’s job was one of the most important but it was not easy. Large flocks of sheep, sometimes numbering in the thousands and tens of thousands, needed care. Sheep spent the greater part of the year in the open air; they were led out the week before Passover and did not return until mid-November to be sheltered for the winter. The shepherd worked during many hot days and bitter cold nights. Sometimes several shepherds would bring their flocks together in the evening so they could take turns watching the sheep and getting some sleep.
Watching and caring for those large flocks took much time and attention. If any sheep wandered off, the shepherd went after them. He sometimes fought with wild animals such as hyenas, wolves, and bears to protect the sheep. For this reason he always had weapons, such as a heavy club and a knife, with him. A good shepherd was even willing to die for his sheep because he loved them.
The shepherd also cared for any sick or hurt sheep and the newborn lambs. He had special cries or calls for his sheep. When the sheep heard his voice calling, they followed the shepherd because they knew his voice and trusted him. Sometimes he played a pipe or flute as he walked along with his sheep.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, loves us, cares for all our needs and watches over us. He knows each of us by name and knows everything about us – what we like, what makes us happy or sad, and what we need. Jesus never forgets us. The psalm response in this Sunday’s Mass says, “We are his people, the sheep of his flock.”
Jesus challenges us to live our faith by loving others and meeting their needs – the poor, the sick, the hungry, the homeless, the dying and so on. At the same time he sustains us with his grace through prayer and the sacraments, especially confirmation, reconciliation and the Eucharist, to help us avoid sin and evil, and to energize and strengthen us to live our faith.
In loving obedience to the will of his Father, Jesus’ sufferings, death on the cross and Resurrection have gained heaven and eternal life and happiness for us.
Read Psalm 23 and what it says about “The Lord is my Shepherd.”