Jesus Christ, referring to Himself as good shepherd and sheepgate, reveals the ways by which God saves His people. As Sheepgate, Christ offers salvation to all. St. Paul says in Col 1,14: “in Him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” As Good Shepherd, Christ leads the way to salvation by the witness of His life – His teachings and miracles, His friendships, and ultimately His laying down His life for His friends.
If Christ is our Good Shepherd, what then are we called to do?
First, we have to listen to His voice. We are surrounded by voices that vie for our attention and tell us a variety of things. “Do this and you will be happy.” “Follow me and you will get rich.” “Get this and you will be powerful.” His is the only voice that will not lead us astray. He is the Word made flesh who seeks us out, calls us by name, and knows our needs even before we speak of them.
Second, we have to walk in His way. It is easy to follow Christ when life is easy and joy is at hand. While the sheepfold is a safe zone, the flock cannot stay there forever else they will go hungry. So the Good Shepherd casts His flock out and leads them to green pastures. To get out of the sheepfold is to expose oneself to danger, pain, and suffering. Will we still follow His lead when He asks us to choose what is righteous over what is easy? Will we walk His way of the cross?
Third, and most important of all, we are called to become like Him. The prophet Jeremiah prophesied that the Lord will give His people “shepherds after His own heart.” This doesn’t just apply to priests or government leaders, but to everyone. Everyday we are shepherding people, whether as an employer or employee, as a public servant or a citizen of the republic, as a parent, a brother or sister, or friend. The difference is whether we do it like Christ or we do it badly.
Christ distinguishes between bad and good shepherds. The bad ones come only to steal, kill, and destroy. Christ comes so people might have life and have it abundantly. To be like Christ is to have the “smell of the sheep”, that is to be in genuine solidarity especially with the poor and the weak, the marginalized and the victims of violence. To be like Christ is to be ready to put the neighbor’s needs over personal comfort or safety. To be like Christ is to be happy to offer one’s life to the will of the Father.
The world has become even more challenging. Lies are presented as alternative facts, and vulgarity as authenticity. Abuse of authority is mistaken for leadership, and killings for justice. Amidst these changes, it is not only important that we are able to discern between good and bad leaders. Even more important is that we become shepherds ourselves, after the heart of the Good Shepherd.
HOMILY for the Fourth Sunday of Easter