Monday of the 4th Week of Easter
The Good Shepherd
In the gospel passage today Jesus Christ calls His followers as sheep and to Himself as the shepherd. The image of the good shepherd is very important to us. It is because this image refers to those who take care of the Christian community, the pastor. Our bishops and priests are called pastors because they take care and guide the Christian community called diocese and the parish. And so the important word in today’s gospel is the word, ‘shepherd.’ This is a word of frequent occurrence in the Bible. It contains within it the meaning of a ‘guardian.’ Sometimes the word ‘pastor’ is used instead of the ‘shepherd’ (Jer. 2:8; 3:15). Figuratively this word is used to represent the relation of rulers to their subjects and of God to His people (John 10:11, 14; 1Pet. 2:25; 5:4).
But whether, figurative or literal, there are so many kinds of shepherds around us today and not all of them are good. Some shepherds are paid in order to work. If the payment is minimal the time given to the sheep entrusted to them is minimal too. They leave their sheep and look for greener pasture or higher payment or commission and not ‘mission.’ Somebody said that their love for their sheep is proportional to what they gain from them too. Jesus is the true Good Shepherd and true Good Shepherd does not work for remuneration or commission but of mission.
I will invite you to reflect on the word ‘shepherd.’ First, we are called to be good shepherds for others just like our Lord Jesus Christ. St. Augustine challenged us to be true to our call. He said: “Let us consider the unflattering words of God which Scripture addresses to shepherds who feed themselves and not the sheep. You consume their milk and cover yourselves with their wool; you kill the fatlings, but my sheep you do not pasture. You have failed to strengthen what was weak, to heal what was sick and to bind up what was injured. You did not call back what went astray, nor seek out what was lost. What was strong you have destroyed and my sheep have been scattered because there is no shepherd,” (St. Augustine, On Pastors). They are the bad shepherds and sad to say we have so many of them scattered around us.
Second is we are called to feed the sheep entrusted to us. Somebody said that we are called especially to strengthen the weak, to heal the sick, to bind up the injured. Our Lord Jesus Christ did precisely that throughout His life on earth. At the Last Supper, after washing the feet of the apostles, He said, “I have given you example, so that you may do what I have done.”
We are called to lay down our lives for the sheep. Somebody again said that the Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta taught us to be good shepherds in the small occasions throughout the day, even when it hurts. She said: “And so let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love and once we begin to love each other naturally we want to do something. … What we have done we should not have been able to do if you did not share with your prayers, with your gifts, this continual giving. But I don´t want you to give me from your abundance, I want that you give me until it hurts” (Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, December 11, 1979 Oslo, Norway).
And so let us pray to God that we will be another Christ for others today.