4TH SUNDAY OF EASTER - C
The fourth Sunday of Easter is the Good Shepherd Sunday. The key to the understanding of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is found in the Old Testament. From the very beginning, Israel lived in a pastoral civilization through their patriarchs. This relationship between God and Israel was reflected in the metaphor of the relationship between the shepherd and his sheep: “He is our God and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides” (Ps. 95:7). The shepherd is both a leader and companion, defending the flock from wild beasts and from robbers: “Like a shepherd he feeds his flock, he gathers the lambs in his arms, carrying them carefully in his heart, leading them home” (Ps. 40:11). God elected leaders and entrusted his flock to them as shepherds like Moses, Aaron. David was the best example because he was a real shepherd before he was made the ruler and king of Israel.
But because of their weaknesses and iniquities, these shepherds have been unfaithful so God promised that he himself will take the flock in his hands and will provide a shepherd according to his heart (Jer. 3:15). There will only be one shepherd who was the new David: “I will appoint one shepherd to pasture them, my servant David; he will pasture them and be their shepherd” (Ez. 34:23).
Jesus is the promised good shepherd. Jesus said; “My sheep listen to my voice and I know them.” There is an intimate relationship between the shepherd and the sheep because of the time they spend together. The shepherd knows his sheep and they know his voice. If a hired shepherd or an impostor tries to call the sheep, because there is no connectedness, there is no way they will listen to him. What an awesome reality that Jesus the Good Shepherd knows each one of us personally, as St. Augustine says: “more than we know ourselves.” Because we belong to the fold, our task being His sheep is to listen to His voice. This listening is not just about hearing someone’s voice but unwavering attentiveness and obedience. The word “obedience” comes from the Latin “ab audire” which means to listen to. Christ extended the shepherding to the ordained ministers of the Church. We see this reality in the hierarchy of the Church wherein we call our shepherds as pastors namely the Pope, the bishops and the priests. It is by following the shepherds that Christ continues to lead the sheep into the fullness of life which is eternal life.
These shepherds lead us into green pastures and enough water which we experience through the Eucharist. When we come together most especially in the Eucharistic assembly, we manifest the reality of our relationship with Jesus as our shepherd represented by the priest. Jesus continues to feed His flock in the green pasture of the Eucharist where we eat His body and drink His blood. When we gather to celebrate the sacraments, the sheepfold becomes a reality once again in our fellowship and communion with each other together with our shepherd.
We are also called to shepherd each other: parents shepherding their young children; children shepherding their old parents; friends shepherding those in their circle; teachers shepherding their students, etc. If ever we are given the authority towards others, it is not to crown ourselves with worldly power but rather a call to mission. This mission finds expression in service to others.
If the shepherd is ready to give up his life for his sheep, as shepherds are we ready to die for the sake of our fellow sheep? If yes, then our fellowship finally finds its true meaning!