Grace to you!
I use the Gospel of John, chapter ten, as our primary source for today's reflection.
The Lord Jesus Christ had performed an incredible miracle of healing a man born blind in John 9. Only God could do this. Some of the authorities tried everything possible to explain away the miracle. When the man insisted that Jesus must be of God, and wouldn't deny the miracle, the authorities expelled the man from the temple (Jn 9:34).
Which means he was barred from being part of the worshiping community. They shot the door against him. And, as I have explained in one of my previous reflections, being expelled from the temple was the most terrible rejection of a person in the Jewish community. It meant the person is excluded from divine worship and salvation. For the Jews, if the expulsion is permanent, it means the person is condemned for life.
But was the man condemned for life? Not if his faith is in Christ, the Good Shepherd. While expelled, Jesus sought the man out. Know this: When you are expelled, rejected, or the door shut against you because you are doing something right, or you are a believer, the Good Shepherd searches for you to find you. You are not alone. God is with you. Emmanuel (God with us)!
When Jesus found the man, he started the excellent teaching about his mission as the Good Shepherd. "Truly, truly, I say to you, 'I am the door of the sheep'" (John 10:7). He didn't say he is a door of the sheep but the door, the gate. He thereby excludes the possibility of the sheep finding true, saving pasture from other sources other than him.
The Lord's claim is incredible and audacious. It's a claim, which the Church, following the teaching of the apostles, has given the general theme of "salvation is in Christ."
For the man who was born blind, it was a refreshing message. To know that the door shut against him wasn’t the door of his salvation, was encouraging.
Jesus is the door for good reasons. First, to know him, and believe in him, to walk in his footsteps is salvation.
Second, he gives life to the sheep. It isn't just biological or physical life. It is divine life—the life that lives forever. And if, as the French theologian Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, considered one of the greatest moral theologians of the 20th Century, said that eternal life is the greatest of human aspirations and values," then Jesus grants the sheep that eternal life, the Divine life.
Hence, the desire of all hearts is found in Christ and achieved through him. He is the gate. "I am the way." He is equally the "Good Shepherd" because he leads us to the truth. "I am the truth." He is the sheep as well. "I am the life." By laying down his life for his sheep through his death and resurrection—the greatest sacrifice of all time, he is not merely a teacher. He is the priest, the victim, and the sacrifice.
At least four qualities of Christ as the Good Shepherd are evident here:
1. Christ searches for the lust or those shut out of access to salvation (Jn 9:34-35), to bring them to greener pastures. Meditate on the message of Psalm 23—“The Lord is my shepherd." Care for souls is the most important call of the shepherd who follows the example of Christ, the Good Shepherd.
2. Jesus laid down his life for the sheep. To be a good shepherd is to be able to sacrifice for the sheep. Jesus, the good shepherd, bore the weaknesses of the sheep, suffered so the sheep can live.
3. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, leads the way. "He goes before them, and the sheep follow him…”(Jn 10:4). Meaning: Jesus was a true servant-leader who leads the way, even when the route is rough and turbulent. So must any shepherd.
4. Finally, Jesus said he came that we will have abundant life (see Jn 10:10). Though we can never give people "life to the fullest," which is eternal life, we can be vehicles through which this grace, sanctifying grace, is granted to people.
Join me and ask the Good Shepherd to touch people's hearts to say yes to the promptings of God to become priests, deacons, and religious. Pray too that those afraid of permanent union through the sacrament of the Holy Matrimony will embrace it. May they also be open to the full love and life, including procreation, which it entails. Amen. Pray for those who aren’t religious or married, may they find joy in their unique vocation too. Pray for one another that in our various personal callings as married people or single, we may live holy lives and be the light of grace for many. Pray too for those who aren't sure about their vocation in life. May the blessing of discernment be abundant for them. Amen.
God love you. Bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Easter Fourth Sunday of Easter A: Good Shepherd Sunday: Reading Act 2:14 A, 36 – 41; 1 Peter 2: 20B –25, Jn 10:1- 10]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu Ph.D., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.