Gospel Commentary: The Good Shepherd

The Gospel this Sunday provides a shift within the 50 days of the Easter season. The first three Sundays of Easter have focused on the appearances of Jesus to his disciples after the Resurrection. This Sunday’s Gospel changes direction as it presents Jesus, the Good Shepherd. In the three-year cycle of readings for Sundays of the liturgical year, each Gospel selection for the Fourth Sunday of Easter has some aspect of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. In each year, the passage for this Sunday is taken from chapter 10 of the Gospel according to John. In the first year’s passage (Cycle A) Jesus describes himself, "I am the gate of the sheepfold" (Jn 10:1-10). In the second year’s passage (Cycle B, this year) we hear, "The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep" (Jn 10:11-18). In the third year’s passage (Cycle C) Jesus says, "My sheep hear my voice … I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish" (Jn 10:27-30). How different the good shepherd is from the hired hand. When money is the motivation for caring for the flock, the inclination is to escape when danger appears. Love is the motivation that can rise above fear. When the wolf attacks the flock, the good shepherd looks first to protect the flock he loves. As we listen to this passage, it can be very easy to skip over what we hear next. "I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd." The flock of Israel and the flock that comes from the nations — the Gentiles — are to be one. In our own time we see another instance of dispersed flocks in the various denominations of the Christian faith. If we fast-forward in John’s Gospel to chapter 17, we find the high priestly prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper. Jesus prayed for those things closest to his heart: the completion of his mission, the disciples, and his prayer for all believers "that they may be one." Here we find the heart of the Shepherd. When we look at ecumenical efforts among Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians in the past century, we may become discouraged that Christ’s prayer for unity has not come to fulfillment. We see that we may not be progressing towards a unity of faith as we had once hoped. This gives us even more reason that our prayer should echo the prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper, that all may be one. How will this happen? We do not know. What can seem like an impasse to us requires prayer that the Holy Spirit will show us ways in which we can pray and act together to be witnesses to the world of our belief in Jesus. This is the work of God. Fr. Roos is adjutant judicial vicar in the Diocesan Tribunal, with residence at St. Michael Church in Annandale.

Copyright ?2003 Arlington Catholic Herald.  All rights reserved.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016