Jesus is our Good Shepherd. I think this is one of those weekends where it is important to look at some of the historical and biblical context because this already profound Gospel increases in its depth and meaning. Jesus is preaching to the Jews from the Temple. And so, when he says “I Am the Good Shepherd” we have to ask ourselves, “what would a Jew of Jesus’ time be thinking when they hear Jesus say those words, I Am the Good Shepherd?”
The most obvious thing, which would be the most shocking, is that this is another “I Am” statement from Christ. This is a claim that speaks to his divinity, and goes back to Moses when God told Moses that His name was “I Am”. But the Good Shepherd was also a subtle claim of his identity as God’s son.
In Ezekiel 34, the prophet Ezekiel is calling out bad prophets. He is challenging the religious leaders of Ancient Judaism for three grave misdeeds: 1) for being self-loving pastors, they do not serve the needs of their sheep, but instead, serve themselves; 2) for not protecting the sheep against wild beasts; 3) Finally, for allowing the sheep to be scattered throughout the world. Ezekiel says these heartbreaking words: The Sheep were scattered and No one looked after them or searched for them (Ez 34:6). But then God promises, I myself will search for my sheep …and I myself will pasture them (Ez 34: 11, 15).
Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise through the words of the prophet Ezekiel. Jesus is The Good Shepherd who has come into the world to search for His sheep. See how Jesus corrects the bad shepherds by giving us a model to follow. Jesus won’t be self-serving or self-loving but rather he will lay down his life for his sheep. Jesus will not leave his sheep unprotected but rather save them from the powers of evil; sin and death. Finally, Jesus will unite his sheep who have been scattered; and furthermore, he will seek out other sheep not initially of this flock and bring them into it. In other words, Christ, who is speaking to Jews says, I will bring together my sheep who are Jews and Gentiles together into one flock. This is Christ extending an offer of salvation to the world, not just a nation.
My friends this weekend, we are invited to pray about how we imitate the Good Shepherd. We are called to imitate is selfless love for others. This is a particularly strong command from our Lord for us priests. I pray every day that I let myself (all my wants and my selfishness) get out of the way so that I will be ready to serve God’s people. Married couples, your sacrificial love for your spouses and children can be a sign for us of God’s love for humanity. Finally, all of us do this as we remember each day the spiritual and corporeal works of mercy. Each day we must ask ourselves, how are we turning away from selfishness, and offering our lives in loving service for others?
We are called to imitate the Good Shepherd by protecting one another from evil in this world. Parents you do this when you protect your children from movies or other media that is not appropriate. Or we do this for each other as we hold each other accountable for sins. All of us need good friends in our lives who are willing to say “Hey, man, I love you and you can’t do that.” We hear in the book of James, those who keep a friend from falling into sin, have canceled a multitude of sins.
Finally, we imitate the Good Shepherd by seeking unity amongst ourselves. One way we do this is by holding on to our common baptism amongst our sisters and brothers of otheChristianan communities. Especially today we do well to avoid any strain of an “us versus them mentality”. Also, unity in our families. How willing are we to forgive those who have wronged us. Christ desires for families to be united. We do this by holding on to the prayer he taught us: forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us.
This weekend we are reminded that we do have a good shepherd. A shepherd who loves us totally, protects us from evil, and brings us together as one family. As we receive the Eucharist this Sunday, may we too strive to love as Christ loves, to protect those close to us from evil, and to seek the unity of Christ in our lives.
In Christ’s Love,