The Good Shepherd
The Gospel for Sunday, April 25 (John 10:11-18) carries one of many Scriptural lessons about “the good shepherd.” Religious artists of all types have tried to capture the essence of the good shepherd: in two-dimensional and three-dimensional media, in paint, stained glass, mosaic, sculpture, in music, in poetry and in film. Search the internet for good shepherd creations and you will find the number of entries to be overwhelming from clip art to classic masterworks. There is a danger, however, in such popularity. Not only can the subject become trivialized and commercialized, but familiarity can dull our level of awareness of the profound meaning therein. Therefore, you might try this approach: choose only one passage from this week’s gospel and repeat it over and over as a mantra to penetrate its special message for you. Let it sink into the depths of your consciousness. Sit with it. Explore its meaning. Allow it to raise questions for you (even if you don’t know the answers).
“I am the good shepherd. I know mine and mine know me.”
My shepherd knows the real me -- not the public me that I prefer to present to the world, nor the private me that I allow only one or two people to see, not even the flawed me that is marred by mistakes, bad choices, regrets, fears, destructive habits that I can’t seem to shake – but the real me. And this is the me that the shepherd knows and loves. Do I know myself as well as my shepherd knows me? How well do I know my shepherd?
“And I will lay down my life for the sheep.”
My shepherd proclaimed before he went to his execution that he would lay down his life for me. All the events that were commemorated just a few weeks ago in the Triduum, my shepherd accepted freely to redeem me. What does it feel like to consider that I am loved that much?
But on another day I might notice another line…
“I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold; these also I must lead, and they will hear my voice and there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
Who are the other sheep that do not yet belong to this fold, but whom my shepherd wants to hear his voice? Whom am I reluctant to accept, prefer to ignore, or don’t want to see in the “one flock” with me? So what is God telling me in this realization?
If you are open to praying in this manner, the next time you look at a familiar image, or hear a hymn or see anything that reminds you of Jesus the good shepherd, you may have a brand new appreciation of the art work, or you may find that the image you are seeing falls short of the powerful one that lives inside you now. Either way, you can sing a grateful Amen.