Acts 2:14,36-41, 1 Peter 2:20-25, John 10:1-10
Who is Your Shepherd?
When I was still tender I had the nicest opportunity to shepherd my grandfather’s flock. Whenever we have the feast of the Good Shepherd, I used to have a reminiscence of how we pastor his sheep in those days.
Early in the morning, we will take out the sheep which could be about twelve in number. We always make sure that we keep them where there is a greener pasture.
In the afternoon, we will go back and check if they are in good condition and then at night, we will go back to take them back to the house.
While going home, we normally hold their ropes and move ahead of them for them to follow the road we wish to follow.
Wherever I decide to follow, the sheep will always join me. When any of the sheep would be lost, we would move about making the sheep sound ‘meeeeee, mememe” etc Because practically there could be no way to find the sheep if not by that sound.
Whenever we make such sounds, the lost sheep might hear our voice and hence respond with the same sound. What normally baffles us is that, they would start coming back to us immediately, they hear our voices.
When Jesus says my sheep hear my voice and they follow me (John 10:27-30), the statement is true. My grandfather’s flock knows my voice and they always respond, whenever we call the sheep.
A shepherd takes charge of the flock. He always takes care of his flock. The shepherd always takes the lead and the sheep follow. The sheep in turn have the responsibility to obey the shepherd.
Whoever we choose to obey most is the person or the thing we choose to be Our Shepherd. Therefore the question for today is “Who is our shepherd?”.
Almost all the readings of today and the responsorial psalm point to the Good shepherd-sheep analogy.
Every fourth Sunday of the Easter season is referred to as the Good Shepherd Sunday. Here, the church invites us to reflect on Jesus as the Good Shepherd.
Therefore, in today’s reflection, we shall make an in-depth analysis which will include all the readings of today. To start, let us begin from the gospel.
The Thief, Brigand and the True Shepherd.
In the gospel, Jesus begins by making a clear-cut distinction between the thief and the True Shepherd. Jesus refers to anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate but gets in some other way as a thief and a brigand.
The one who enters through the gate is the true shepherd of the flock. The sheep hear the voice of the true shepherd, one by one he calls his sheep and leads them out.
Therefore, the thief can never enter through the sheepfold. The gatekeeper does not know him.
To fully understand this pericope, we have to read from chapter nine of Saint John’s gospel. The whole thing began after Jesus healed a man born blind. The controversy that ensued after the healing, led Jesus to discuss the sheep and the shepherd relationship.
In essence, Jesus directs this discussion to the leaders of His time. The healing of the man born blind is a type of healing that is supposed to evoke sympathy among the leaders, instead, it generates hatred and controversy from the Jewish leaders.
Their reaction to the healing shows that the Pharisees are not true leaders whose intention is to take care of the flock. They lack the qualities of a good shepherd. Also, they fail to acknowledge the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, the Pharisees show themselves to be robbers and thieves because they lead without entering the gate, who is Jesus. In this discussion, Jesus identifies Himself both as the gate and the Shepherd.
As the gate, every shepherd, that is every leader must go through Him. The true shepherds are those who pass through the gate. All their teachings and ways of life are inspired by that of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, they are the ones the sheep would follow.
Jesus made it clear that anyone who decides not to follow or pass through the gate is simply a thief. They simply came to steal and destroy.
2. Therefore, these represent those whose intention is not to care for their sheep. The only come through the backdoor, to steal the sheep away.
They are those whose hearts are not to care for the flock. They come with erroneous teaching and manipulative ways to mislead the flock. Invariably, here, there is a sharp contrast between the shepherd and the brigand.
The shepherd will never mislead the sheep. He intends to lead the sheep to greener pastures and protect them from wolves.
Hence, in this discussion, Jesus sees himself as the true shepherd, therefore, if Jesus is the true shepherd, the brigand represents those whose teachings go against the teachings of Jesus.
Their intention is not to save souls, their intention is always to satisfy their stomachs, to fill their pockets, and to lead people away from God.
These range from posts we see daily on social media, antichrist adherents, material things, bad friends and many others who lead us away from the faith.
Most times still, these are the people we choose to follow their teachings, instead of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we may say that Jesus is our shepherd but is Jesus truly your shepherd? Who is Our Shepherd?
To be A Good Shepherd.
A shepherd in a general sense, refers to anyone who pastors, guides and protects the sheep. A shepherd takes care of the sheep. He is a keeper of the flock.
A shepherd is a person who tends, feeds, or guards the flock. In the responsorial psalm of today, the psalmist says “The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in the greenest pastures, he restores my soul”.
Therefore, the shepherd is one whose intention is to make His flock not lack. He is led by the Psalm 23 mantra ‘I shall not want’ or ‘I shall lack nothing’ to make sure that His flock do not lack spiritually, materially, medically etc depending on whose profession.
When you have people under you in every aspect of human endeavour, you are the shepherd of that fold. They are handed unto your care, not to intimidate, mislead, destroy nor divide them but to guide them properly to the greenest pasture, leading them to the land of righteousness and saving them from the hands of the enemy. Therefore, to be a good shepherd, we have to sincerely take care of the people under our care.
2. Secondly, Jesus also refers to himself as the gate. In the Jewish culture, the shepherd always brings the sheep into the sheepfold every night.
Once the sheep are brought inside for the night, the shepherd will sleep in that front door all night, so that there is no way the sheep could get out without stepping over the shepherd’s body.
Jesus is the gate, this ensures that anyone who enters through Jesus is safe. He would freely go in and out and be sure of finding pasture.
Others steal and kill and destroy but Jesus is the Good Shepherd, whose intention is to pasture, feed, care, guide, teach and protect the flock. To be a good shepherd, this is also what we have to do.
3. Thirdly, A Shepherd should know what the sheep need and make a sincere effort to provide it for them. He should know when to do the needful. A shepherd should be motivated in touching the lives of the people.
For example, in the first reading, on the day of Pentecost, Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed the crowd in a loud voice. He knew that the people had observed what happened in their midst during the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
As A leader, Peter knew that this could be the best time to tell the people about Jesus Christ since many of them have already witnessed what happened. He did the needful.
The people were cut to heart after listening to Peter. They started shouting, “What must we do, brothers?’ Peter knew that at this point, what the people need are not signs, miracles and wonders.
Peter knows that they need something more than these which is repentance. This will lead them also to receive the Holy Spirit.
The people were convinced by his arguments, and they accepted what he said and were baptised. That very day about three thousand were added to their number.
The lesson here is quite simple. A shepherd should be highly motivated by the desire to work for the salvation of souls.
When you are motivated to save lives in whatever endeavour you are in, there is always an increase. But today, we seem to be so interested in monetary gain, instead of that eagerness to save souls.
Any minister who prepares himself and works with the Holy Spirit will become a powerful instrument of conversion for souls. Let us always be motivated, always to touch lives, God will surely grant you a harvest of souls. The Shepherd goes ahead and the sheep follow.
4. Fourthly, in the second reading, Saint Peter says that a good shepherd, must be the one who is ready to endure trials as Jesus Christ died for our sake.
Jesus was never selfish. He endured even the most painful trial for the sake of the good of His flock. He died for us and leaves an example for us to follow.
Therefore, as a shepherd, we have to look upon Jesus all the time as our model. Therefore, as Jesus goes ahead, we must go ahead.
We have to be the light that others can walk through. As shepherds we do not lead the people into darkness, rather we lead them to salvation. We constantly touch their lives, for them to encounter the light of Christ.
The Sheep and the Shepherd.
From what Jesus says, one could decipher that the relationship between the Sheep and the shepherd should be cordial.
The shepherd takes care of the sheep and the Sheep listens to the voice of his shepherd. The sheep recognise their shepherd, just as the shepherd recognises them. What this entails is that in our relationship with Jesus, there is always a familiarity that exists.
This is the reason he says in Luke 8:21, that those who listen to the word of God and keep to it are His brothers and sisters and relations. When we take Jesus as our shepherd, He also takes us as His own.
Therefore, as members of the flock, we should recognise his voice when he calls us and obey him. We do not obey the voice of strangers, those whose intent is to mislead.
There is only one Good Shepherd who protects all of the sheep till eternity and through eternity.
If your shepherd is not capable of leading us to eternity, we have to make a U-turn now. Hence, today, many of us have disregarded the message of the gospel, to follow any message we see on social media, even those against our faith.
Who is Your Shepherd?
The question today for all of us is who is your shepherd? Who is that person or what is that thing that you easily obey the voice whenever it comes? Is it the voice of making money even at the detriment of your faith? Is it the voice of immorality?
Who is truly our shepherd? Is it that of social media influencers or antichrists, who are now increasing daily? People whose clear intention is to lead us away from the faith?
Is your shepherd, your friend whom you can even break your relationship with God just to make him or her happy? Anyone or anything that we easily obey his or her voice is by all evaluations is the shepherd we have chosen.
If We Choose Jesus as Our Shepherd.
In the gospel, Jesus says that the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his sheep and leads them out. Therefore, if we choose Jesus as our own, He will also make us His own. If we choose to love Him, He will also choose to love us.
1. In the gospel, Jesus says that he is the gate and that anyone who enters through Him will be safe.
In the gospel, He promises that the person must be going freely in and out and He is sure of finding pasture and he has come to give them life in abundance.
Therefore, he assures his sheep of his constant love, provision and strength. At a time when it seems every person has abandoned you, Jesus will surely be with you. At the time of challenges when it looks as if all hope is lost, His grace will be sufficient for you.
When it seems your past cannot be forgiven, He is always ready to forgive and bring you back. When you think you do not have strength again, Jesus is ready to give us enormous strength.
In the same way, let us be ready to do the same to others who come in contact with us. Let us always be led by the Psalm 23 mantra ‘I shall not want”.
Let there be nothing that is lacking where ever you work. Be zealous for the work and the souls, God will surely grant you an increase.
2. Like The Good Shepherd we have to protect the lives and welfare of those handed into our care. We are not there to be served but to serve them in the spirit of Christ.
Like The Good Shepherd, we have to take our duties as what God has given to us, not for our gain, nor using such positions to feed and prosper out of their difficulties but because of who we are as representatives of Christ.
Here, 1 Peter 5:2 says “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them, not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve.
3. The question we can still ask is who our shepherd is. Instead of choosing God as our shepherd as David did and sang in Psalm 23, we neglect God and choose another thing as our Shepherd.
Today, many people now see Money as their shepherd. Many choose hatred, wickedness and immorality.
When they see Money, they turn justice upside down. When you give some money, they fall easily and lose themselves.
Many people today have chosen money as their shepherd, this is what makes someone decide not to worship God because he wants to go on a business trip first.
This is the reason many have gone diabolic just to become rich overnight, so, the question is who is our shepherd? What is leading us?
4. If we choose Jesus as our shepherd, we shall also make an effort to listen to Jesus. His words will be what we shall desire all the time. We would not allow anything to come in between this relationship.
Jesus says in the gospel that the sheep will never follow a stranger but run away from him: they do not recognise the voice of strangers.’ In essence, they do not follow the voice of the antichrist.
They do not follow the voice of hatred, wickedness, family disunity, and laziness to prayer, rather they follow the voice of peace, love, togetherness, unity, desire to pray to God always and longing to be in close relationship with Jesus. So, who do you choose?
God Bless you and happy Sunday.