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The Good Shepherd comes that we may have life

Julian Paparella

May 3, 2017
A reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday
This Sunday’s Gospel gives us an image that summarizes all that we have celebrated in the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus description of the Good Shepherd in John 10 shows us how He saw His mission in the world, and His mission in each of our lives.
Jesus did not come as a political powerhouse, a domineering leader, or a demanding referee. He came as a Shepherd. He came to care for us and to lead us gently, as a shepherd leads His sheep. He is not just the Good Shepherd, He is our Good Shepherd. He is the Shepherd for each of us. He came to lead us to life. He came to call us by name. He came to bring us home to eternal pastures.
If Jesus is my Shepherd, then I am a sheep in the flock of Jesus. Jesus knows me. He calls me by name. I know His voice. Jesus seeks me out when I am lost. Jesus places me tenderly on His shoulders. Jesus invites me back to the flock when I go astray. Jesus guides me gently to where is best for me. How powerful it is to experience this in prayer. To imagine how Jesus looks at you. To imagine Him seeking you out when you are lost. To imagine His joy in finding you, picking you up and placing you on His shoulders. The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-10) can be a great help in this way. Jesus is not a Shepherd who restricts, controls, or enslaves us. He does not seek to capture us in His grasp. He wants to carry us gently and lead us lovingly, that we may have life. He tells us, “A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
Having life more abundantly is not about having a more glamorous wardrobe, or taking expensive vacations. It is not about having a more stylish house or a greater variety of entertainment. Having life and having it more abundantly is truly living. It is living deeply. It is living to the full. It is seeking the things that bring us life and that bring life to other people. It is knowing God’s love for me and loving others in return. This is eternal life. This is heaven. Totally receiving God’s love and sharing this love with all of humanity. Jesus gives us this life. It begins already, here and now, as members of the flock of the Good Shepherd.
Jesus not only gathers each of us as individuals, He gathers us together as a flock. Jesus does not save us individually, one-by-one. He saves us together. He comes to give us life together. He not only relates to each of us personally, He is also in the midst of us, uniting us as one, bringing us together, and leading us forward together. Life in abundance is not just each of us enjoying him or herself in the comfort of his or her own solitude. Life in abundance is not just being left unbothered by my neighbour. Life in abundance means coming together as brothers and sisters. It means sharing with others the life that we receive. It means rejoicing in one another. It means seeing each other as a gift. It is taking the time to encounter one another, even in little ways. Taking a moment for an unexpected conversation instead of wishing you were left undisturbed. Smiling at someone who looks down. Writing to a family member or friend. Volunteering to help people in need. All of these bring us together as a flock. All of these show us that we are not alone. Even through simple gestures, we can show others that they are not alone either.
Jesus continues His work of being our Good Shepherd through His Church. This is an important but often difficult message in our world today. It does not mean that the Church shepherds us perfectly. Jesus alone is the Good Shepherd. But He uses His Church to try and lead us through life in this world. He does not save us individually but together. There is a German hymn, “He who believes is never alone.” And again a French saying, “A Christian alone is a Christian in danger.” We do not live our faith in isolation. Jesus does not just relate to us individually in a vacuum. We are not lone sheep in the world. We are members of a flock. We belong to one another, and together we belong to Christ. We are sometimes scattered, divided, but Jesus seeks to bring us together, to unite us in one fold. He not only brings us together as Catholics, or Protestants, or Christians. He wants to bring all of humanity together and He uses us as instruments of this peace and unity.
Jesus’ image of the Good Shepherd reveals to us who He is, for each of us and for all of us together. It also shows us how He is at work in the world, bringing us to Himself and uniting us together. Through this beautiful image that He gives us, may we see how Jesus brings us close to Himself, and learn from Him how to come closer together with our fellow sheep, as members of His fold.