GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY
FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
by Leogen Lumogdang
Acts13:14, 43-52/Rev. 7:9, 14b-17/John 10:27-30
Good morning friends! We are in the Fourth Sunday of Easter. Often called “Good Shepherd Sunday” because of the image of the shepherd which Jesus applies to himself, we are reminded by our gospel of the importance of recognizing Jesus’ voice and responding to it. There are three things which I propose for our reflection today: (1) My Sheep hear my voice, (2) I know them, and (3) They follow me. These three statements by Jesus all come from the first verse (v.27) of our gospel today.
In our gospel, Jesus characterizes his relationship with his sheep. Living in a society where pastoral activity is widely practised, he offers his hearers a picture which is common to their society. The relationship of the shepherd and the sheep is the picture which for Jesus best captures his relationship to us. Truly, in the midst of many conflicting voices, only those who are familiar with the voice of the Good Shepherd can recognize it.
MY SHEEP HEAR MY VOICE. In the preceding verses, Jesus characterizes the good shepherd to whom the flock should listen to as opposed to a “hired man” (v. 12). Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep” (v. 11). Hence, for Jesus, the good shepherd is someone who truly cares for the flock. He/She is someone whose regard for the flock is to an extent as for him/her “to lay down his life” (v.11). He/She is not afraid but is willing to risk his/her welfare, even his life, for the flock. The good shepherd is one who would not let his/her flock scatter because of wolves. He/She is NOT one who “leaves the sheep and runs away” (v. 12). The good shepherd is not one who “works for pay and has no concern for the sheep” (v. 13). Therefore, the measure of the true and good shepherd is his/her wholehearted love and concern for his/her sheep; not for pay, money or anything!
I KNOW THEM. This wholehearted love and concern for the flock is manifested in the shepherd’s constant call to his sheep. This is because the good shepherd knows his/her flock very well unlike the thieves, robbers and hired men who only use the flock for their own welfare. Jesus shows us how he healed the “man born blind” (ch. 9), the “diseased man for thirty-eight years” (ch. 5), thus, liberating them of their oppressing conditions. The “Raising up of Lazarus” (ch. 11) also shows us that not even death could take power over his flock. We are constantly called by Jesus towards integral liberation where everyone is in the embrace of God through dignified and sufficient living as the generous God and Father intended for us. We are constantly called by Jesus toward his sheepfold where true liberation and freedom is found.
This call is not anymore only reserved to the people of the first testament (i.e. Jews) as the first reading relates to us. Instead, Paul in his preaching at Antioch clarified that the word of God, that is God’s voice, should also be extended to all the nations. Citing Isaiah, Paul extolled that salvation belongs “to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6, Acts 13:47).
THEY FOLLOW ME. As a response to his call, it is only fitting to follow him. To a certain extent, familiarity with the voice means attraction to the voice and attraction defines what we want. Hence, when we recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd calling on to us, the only proper response is to follow that voice. Therefore, in as much as the good shepherd calls us in love towards liberation and freedom, is it not only fitting to say that we, his sheepfold, ought also to “love one another” (John 13:34) and work towards total liberation and true freedom? It is only in this dynamics that we can fulfill what Jesus is calling us for as brothers and sisters in the faith. St. Therese of the Child Jesus vowed, “I will spend my heaven by doing good deeds here on earth.” The Korean martyr Bl. Hwang Il-kwang Simon, a lowly butcher, often says: “Here [in the Catholic community], everybody treats me as a human being despite my low-class status, now, I believe that heaven exists here and hereafter.”
I guess, it is providential that before our country’s election we can reflect on these verses. To whom will our vote go? Will they resemble the Good Shepherd in leading the flock? Are they good shepherds who “will lay down [their] life” (v. 11) or merely hired men, robbers of thieves who “works for pay and has no concern for the sheep” (v. 13), leaving the sheep and running away (v. 12)? Let us remember the statistics: 20,000+ deaths. Let us not allow for several thousand more!
LET US PRAY: Lord Jesus, as we follow you, help us to do the Father’s will. May we work for the poor, the outcast, the downtrodden, those shrugged off by society and for all our brothers and sisters. May we never be snatched off from your hands. Just as you and the Father are one, by doing your liberating works here on earth may we gain for ourselves the rewards of eternal life. Amen!