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We continue celebrating the Easter Season, full of joy and gratitude for the gift of salvation we have received in Christ Jesus.
This past Sunday in our church we focused on the gospel of St. John 10:11-18. Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd.” I remember learning that the image of Jesus as Shepherd was the one first used in the early church. The faithful of the pristine church understood from lived experience the horror of the Roman death sentence.
They knew also the victory of the glorified Lord, raised from the dead. The image of the Shepherd who laid down his life for his flock meant even more to them when Jesus was no longer among them.
The Good Shepherd is all about genuinely caring for his sheep 24/7. He opens the sheepfold for them in the morning. He accompanies them throughout the day. He leads them home at night. The Good Shepherd knows his followers, each one by name and personal idiosyncrasies. He accepts each as an individual, without the least discrimination. He is ready to respond in the moment. He is awake and aware. He knows when one strays off in ignorance or rebellion. The Good Shepherd follows and carries the prodigal home on his shoulders.
It is very hopeful to realize that a shepherd does not drive his sheep from behind, prodding them like cattle. Rather the shepherd walks in front. The sheep can see his gentle presence and follow his lead. The shepherd shows his sheep the path by modeling it himself. The path seems doable when the shepherd is in the lead. He can be trusted to always take the sheep in the right direction. A sense of security and peace pervades the flock of the Good Shepherd.
How blessed we are to belong to Jesus, the Good Shepherd. How lovingly we are cared for in good times and bad. How confidently we know that when lost, we will be found. How grateful we are each day to be sons and daughters of our God.
Sister Paula Gohs is pastoral associate at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Carrollton, Ky.