Summary: If the Shepherd died, who would care for the sheep?
MAY 19, 2000
·First Reading Acts 4:8-12
·Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 29
·Second Reading 1 John 3:1-2
·Gospel John 10:11-18
There was once a great actor, who graced the theatres reciting popular literary passages. In one of his performances, an old man in the audience asked him to recite Psalm 23, to which he obliged. After his delivery, the audience gave him yet another resounding ovation. Unexpectedly, he asked the old man to recite the same passage. Nervously and humbly, the old man agreed. At the end of his delivery, however, the only sound in the hall were sobs from the audience. The actor then said, "I may know Psalm 23, but this man truly knows the Shepherd."
This story may or may not be true, but it raises one crucial question we should perhaps ask ourselves. Do we know the Shepherd? Probably, most of us Catholics go to church every Sunday, receive Holy Communion, perform good works and other religious activities. All these are commendable and praiseworthy, but are they concrete proofs that we know the Shepherd?
Do we know the Shepherd? It is possible for us to be like Apollos in the 18th chapter of Acts (18:24). He was well versed in Scriptures and spoke well about Christ. We are told, however, that his knowledge of Christ was insufficient. Priscilla and Aquilla had to introduce him to the Shepherd (18:26). For us, too, there is more to it than simply talking about the Shepherd. We must know the Shepherd not just as our guide but as the Shepherd of our souls and LORD of our lives.
Do we know the Shepherd? Our Gospel Reading emphatically introduces us to that Shepherd. His Name is Jesus, the chief cornerstone of our faith (Ps. 118:22) and the only name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). The Gospel begins powerfully with the Lord’s 4th “I Am” saying in John’s account (Jn. 10:14), which gives us seven “I Am” sayings altogether (Jn. 6:35; 8:12; 10:9; 10:11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:5), all of which are intended to highlight the Lord’s majesty and divinity. The word “good” does not only mean that the Lord is competent in doing the task of a shepherd. More than that, it means that the perfection of all attributes are in Him, with Him and through Him. In Jesus, everything merges, and from Jesus, everything emerges.
Surpassing the devotion of any other shepherd, the LORD loves intimately every one of His sheep. His solemn promise to lay down His life embodies His love for us and gives us a glimpse of His sacrifice on the Cross, a sacrifice that emanates from the love and communion between the Father and the Son (Jn. 10:17; 1 Jn. 3:1). On the Cross, Jesus became the Shepherd and the Lamb as well as the Offerror and the Offering. He embraced the pains of the Cross not only for our good but also in our place.
The sacrifice of the Good Shepherd, though unparalleled to say the very least, raises one dilemma. If the Shepherd died, who, then, would care for the sheep? The answer points to the empty tomb and the glory of the Resurrection. Where would the sheep be had our LORD not resurrected? Scattered? Led by hirelings? Or devoured by wolves? Essentially, therefore, our theme stresses the Shepherd’s supreme sacrifice, whose Resurrection proved that God is not the Shepherd of the dead but of the living (Mk. 12:21). The Resurrection is not only the hallmark of our faith but also our blessed hope to someday "dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (Ps. 23:6). "By the LORD has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes" (Ps. 118:23).
As a Community led by the Good Shepherd, let us consider the following directions:
1. Be one in mind and heart, as the Son is one with the Father, so that the sacrifice of the Shepherd would not be in vain. The unity of any Christian community or family is always made secure only by its oneness with Christ Jesus and with one another (Jn. 10:16).
2. Witness to the Shepherd’s sacrifice by our presence in Community events and endeavors, particularly in Eucharistic Assemblies, Corporate Worships, and Disciples’ Meetings. The ministry of presence does not only show fellowship but also communion with the body.
3. Persevere in our study of the Word through attendance at teachings and retreats in faithfulness to our Community Commitment and Covenant. In Scriptures, we not only read the Word of God but also hear the Voice of the Shepherd (CCC 81). Furthermore, the formation of the sheep depends greatly on the Word of God.
4. Exercise pastoral care. The Church is not only an Apostolic Church but also a Pastoral Church. Like the Church herself, we must pastor one another to a deeper conversion to and relationship with the Shepherd so that in mission, we may bring forth the fruit of shepherding.