Summary: The Council Fathers recognize the obstacles to human unity, and the key to bringing humans together under the leadership of the Good Shepherd.
Monday of 4th Week in Easter 2013
The Good Shepherd
The prophet Isaiah complained, with the voice of God, “all we like sheep have gone astray.” This was truly said of the Hebrew people, and their Jewish descendants. Every time God rescued them from the results of their own bad decisions, it took almost no time for them to run off in a new, self-destructive direction, or to repeat their old follies. In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we see that in just a few years after the Resurrection of Jesus, there was already a “circumcision party” in the Church–former Jews or Jewish converts who insisted that one had to be a Jew before he could be a Christian. In other words, division was a constant temptation in the early Christian community, just as it had been in the pre-Christian era.
And just as it is today. The Council Fathers taught: “Although the world of today has a very vivid awareness of its unity and of how one man depends on another in needful solidarity, it is most grievously torn into opposing camps by conflicting forces. For political, social, economic, racial and ideological disputes still continue bitterly, and with them the peril of a war which would reduce everything to ashes. True, there is a growing exchange of ideas, but the very words by which key concepts are expressed take on quite different meanings in diverse ideological systems. Finally, man painstakingly searches for a better world, without a corresponding spiritual advancement.” (Art 4, Gaudium et Spes)
Those who would lead humans into a path not of God’s making are robbers and hireling shepherds. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. The true disciple hears His voice, and follows Him, just as dumb little sheep follow their true shepherd. I like to return to the beautiful scene in the garden of the Resurrection. Jesus is there, and Mary Magdalene sees Him, but she thinks He is the gardener. Then He says her name, “Mary.” There is instant recognition. The voice she heard driving seven demons out of her, the voice who taught her, said her name and she heard the unlimited love in that voice. When we pray, we should be listening for Jesus calling our name, calling us to follow Him. We will recognize that voice in the Liturgy, in our reading of Scripture, in our silent times, because it is the voice of a Love that has no bounds, a Love that is so giving that we cannot remain cold or indifferent in hearing Him.
We also need to hear the Council Fathers when they talk about the One Fold led by the One Shepherd: “As God did not create man for life in isolation, but for the formation of social unity, so also "it has pleased God to make men holy and save them not merely as individuals, without bond or link between them, but by making them into a single people, a people which acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness."(13) So from the beginning of salvation history He has chosen men not just as individuals but as members of a certain community. Revealing His mind to them, God called these chosen ones "His people" (Ex. 3:7-12), and even made a covenant with them on Sinai.(14)
“This communitarian character is developed and consummated in the work of Jesus Christ. For the very Word made flesh willed to share in the human fellowship. He was present at the wedding of Cana, visited the house of Zacchaeus, ate with publicans and sinners. He revealed the love of the Father and the sublime vocation of man in terms of the most common of social realities and by making use of the speech and the imagery of plain everyday life. Willingly obeying' the laws of his country He sanctified those human ties, especially family ones, which are the source of social structures. He chose to lead the life proper to an artisan of His time and place.
“In His preaching He clearly taught the sons of God to treat one another as brothers. In His prayers He pleaded that all His disciples might be "one." Indeed as the redeemer of all, He offered Himself for all even to point of death. "Greater love than this no one has, that one lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). He commanded His Apostles to preach to all peoples the Gospel's message that the human race was to become the Family of God, in which the fullness of the Law would be love.
“As the firstborn of many brethren and by the giving of His Spirit, He founded after His death and resurrection a new brotherly community composed of all those who receive Him in faith and in love. This He did through His Body, which is the Church. There everyone, as members one of the other, would render mutual service according to the different gifts bestowed on each.