Photo illustration by Phil Younk
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Based on the Gospel of John 10: 1-10
Shepherd. Sheep. Gate. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus uses familiar images to explain his teaching.
Sheep are timid, gentle animals that live together in flocks. They depend on people for protection from danger. Small things like paper blowing in the wind can scare them. If they’re frightened when crossing water they can drown without trying to save themselves.
Jesus tells us a good shepherd takes care of his sheep by giving them good pasture to graze, water and protection from bad weather, other animals and dangers. A good shepherd knows his sheep. When he calls, they follow because they know his voice and trust him. A good shepherd is willing to die for his sheep because he loves them.
Jesus used the examples of shepherd and sheep to help us understand how he would lead and look after us. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus also calls himself the sheep gate. It means that if we want to come to know God and find safety, we must come through Jesus. He alone is the source of our peace. Jesus came from God and is the way to God.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, knows each of us by name. He knows everything about us – what we like, what makes us happy or sad and what we need. Jesus always watches over us and never forgets us. He calls us to follow him. As Jesus’ followers, we belong to his flock.
Jesus also calls other shepherds to watch over us such as our parents, families, priests, nuns, lay teachers, doctors and civic leaders. And, there is one earthly shepherd who has special responsibilities for taking care of Jesus’ flock – the pope. Pope Benedict XVI is Jesus’ representative on earth and the 265th successor to St. Peter, the first pope.
Jesus is always with us to protect us and show us the right way to go. Does this mean we’ll never have bad things happen to us? No. The bad things may happen but, like sheep safe in the shepherd’s care, nothing can take us out of the hands of Jesus, our Good Shepherd.
In loving obedience to the will of his Father, Jesus’ sufferings, death on the cross and Resurrection brought new life for us and gained heaven and eternal life and happiness with him forever.
Read Psalm 23 and what it says about “The Lord is my Shepherd.”