Last Sunday (07 May 2017) we celebrated Good Shepherd Sunday. It was also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Let us pray that more single men will enter the seminary and will become priests. And more single women will enter the convent in order to become religious sisters.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, uses this image in reference to himself in John’s Gospel. He is the gate; all who pass through the gate will be saved. He is the Good Shepherd who leads his sheep to safe pastures. He came in order to give life for his sheep.
Let us to try to reflect on these important points:
First, Jesus emphasizes the importance of the voice of the shepherd. The voice is significant because the following of the sheep depends on what they hear. By sense of hearing, they can identify the voice and recognize their shepherd. If they hear the right voice, they would follow him. Thus, sheep are known to be “listeners” to their shepherd.
The goodness of Christ, as our Shepherd, must be experienced by us. The voice of Christ can be heard through his Word and commandments. Like sheep, we should have the ability to recognize his voice. Recognition is basic, and it is crucial to our following him. It can be disastrous if we choose to follow the voice of the “thieves and robbers” in our society. Jesus the good Shepherd leads us to what is good.
Second, Jesus says that he is the gate of the sheepfold. He promises that whoever passes through the gate will be saved. In the responsorial psalm, we hear of God as a protector, a protecting Shepherd. For the martyrs and those who suffered persecution, they truly perceived the security and protection from the Lord. So, security and protection here can be understood in terms of salvation.
The gate is a small or perhaps a narrow entry towards the sheepfold. Passing through the gate of salvation is a process. Like sheep, we need to go through it. Our salvation should be hard-earned. But others think this would be easily earned. They simply want to “climb elsewhere” and thus, they are “robbers and thieves” according to Christ. Christ is the gate and door to salvation. Faith in him is necessary for our own salvation. Therefore, let us continue and maintain our loving friendship with him.
Third, towards the end of the gospel, Jesus says that he came in order to give us life and have this life more abundantly. His resurrection is a strong proof of fulfilment to his promise: he does not give us a simple life, but an eternal life. Blessed John Paul II once said that “man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God.” So, our natural life is just an initial stage which finds its full realization in eternity or the after life.
But often we have gone astray because of our sinfulness and weakness. These do not bring us life to the full. In the First Reading, we heard Peter proclaiming how to return to the Lord’s flock. He said that personal repentance, the purification of Baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit are necessary.
This celebration of the Sunday of the Good Shepherd reminds us of the goodness of the Lord. Like the psalmist, we must say and proclaim, “The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.”
Fr Gerald Biñegas RCJ
Image courtesy of turnbacktogod.com