Mission Society of the Philippines

Homilies

4th SUNDAY OF EASTER: JESUS, THE GOOD SHEPHERD

Jn 10: 11-18


THE CELEBRATION TODAY has been traditionally called as the Good Shepherd Sunday. The image of God as Shepherd has its precedence in the Old Testament literature. God has been depicted as a Shepherd in the book of Genesis (49: 24), and in the book of Psalms (23, 74, 80).

In our gospel today, Jesus shows us that he is the Good Shepherd. By saying so, he becomes the fulfillment of the Old Testament longings and prophecies for a Shepherd of the flock. As the gospel suggests, Jesus has three characteristics of a good Shepherd: loving, caring, and guiding.

Firstly, he is a Shepherd who loves for his flock. He says, “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Jesus has a great love for his sheep. He loves his sheep so much so that he is willing to lay down his life for them. Here, Jesus contrasts himself from a “hired man” who abandons the sheep when the wolves come. He is different from a hired man because Jesus has love for his sheep.

Secondly, he is a Shepherd who cares for his sheep. He says, “A hired man… sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.” Sheep are no powerful in the face of wolves. That is why a true shepherd cares for the sheep and protects them from harm. Jesus, through his teachings, protects the people from evil and sin.

Thirdly, he is a Shepherd who guides his sheep. He says, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” Sheep need a shepherd who will lead them to pasture, to water, and to shelter.  They must be sought out when they are separated from the flock because they will never find a way back themselves. This is how a shepherd guides his flock. Moreover, Jesus also speaks of leading other sheep that do not belong to the fold. He leads them so that they may also hear his voice.

What do these things say to us?

One the one hand, the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is reminder for all the leaders of the Church who are called to shepherd the faithful entrusted to them. The bishops and priests should be willing to offer their lives for their flock. I remember one African bishop who marched along with his people in the midst of civil war. When asked why he did not flee to other countries, and instead, joined the dangerous march, he replied, “These are my people! I will not leave them.” This is a true mark of a leader’s concern and love for his flock. Moreover, Church leaders should also guide their flock. Preaching the Word of God is of prime importance. But in our time today, where some of the teachings of the Church have been obscured for some reasons, the leaders should know how to explain and make clarifications to these.

On the other hand, the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd also reminds the faithful that they are sheep, and as such, they need to be protected and guided by the Shepherd. The role and mission of Church leaders would become useless if the faithful are too arrogant to say that they do not need their guidance. It is desired that the faithful listen “to the voice” of the leaders. Listening means having the capacity to be open to the truth.

Thus, in this celebration, we pray for the leaders or shepherds of the Church, especially, Pope Francis and our bishop. We pray that God will give them strength to continue to love and guide the flock entrusted to them. AMEN.


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