Today, as the Gospel of the Good Shepherd is proclaimed, Jesus reminds the Church that the voice we need to hear, above all the other voices in society – is the voice of the Good Shepherd. Jesus tells us today: “I am the Good Shepherd: I am the sheep gate.”
The Good Shepherd was a favorite theme of the early Church. Primitive Christian art depicted Jesus as the Good Shepherd. In Palestine, shepherds guided their sheep to pastures and lead them to food and water. The shepherds would watch over their sheep by day and by night, and they would protect them from danger. The shepherds paid special attention to the small, weak sheep.
At night several flocks of sheep would be in the same enclosure, and the shepherd would literally become the gate; in the morning, each shepherd would call his sheep and recognizing his distinct whistle or voice, and they would begin to follow him.
The life of a shepherd was one of dedication – the sheep became his family and he called each one of them by name. The shepherd was with his flock 365 days a year and often 24 hours a day. Against this background of the vocation of shepherd, we are able to appreciate what Jesus has in mind when He says: “I am the Good Shepherd”. He is telling us: “I am with you always – even to the end of the world”.
The pressing question which we face is the question asked of Peter in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles: “What are we to do?” “What are we to do?” is the question Jesus raised in the minds and hearts of those who first heard the Good News of the Gospel. It is the question we must ask ourselves every day.
The answer is simple. We must accept Jesus Christ as the one and only source of our salvation, and embrace Him with all our hearts and souls – Jesus and no other – can give us what we want, what we need, what we must have to be complete and satisfied.
Without Jesus Christ, we are not – and never can be – complete. There is no other source or person who can take His place. There is no other way to perfect happiness other than Jesus Christ our Shepherd. He is the gate through whom and through which every single person ever created must go in order to find paradise. He is the only way out of our problems, our situations, our temptations, and our predicaments. Every other way leads us to a dead end.
As we move forward on our journey of Faith which will ultimately lead us to the Father, Peter – in the first reading – reminds us that through Baptism, we are called to walk in the footsteps of Jesus who calls each one of us to walk where He has walked – to walk the journey to Calvary.
On Good Friday 2004 at the Roman Coliseum, Pope Saint John Paul II reminded the world that in the midst of the confusion of the world, the “Cross remands constant”. The Cross is the light set in the very midst of the world’s darkness.
Today’s readings call us to listen for the voice of the Good Shepherd who invites us to follow Him where He leads. Today’s readings call us to open our minds and hearts to the truth which only He can give. Today’s readings call us to have the strength to stand up for the absolute principals of life, morality and truth. Today’s readings call us to the light – to the mystery of the Cross.
For it is the light of the Cross which scatters the darkness of human life clarifies all mysteries; because it answers the fundamental questions with definitive answers, which gives meaning to life, which is the gate through which all who are His – must enter.
The “Good Shepherd” is the only answer to our longings for peace and salvation. In the midst of the confusion of our world, the voice of the “Good Shepherd” is the voice we need to hear. Today’s readings call us to listen to that voice who invites us to follow where He leads us. The readings call us to open our minds and hearts to the truth which only His voice can teach and to have the strength to stand up for, defend, and live – out those teachings.
May we always hear His voice and follow it.