Dear Followers of the Good Shepherd,
Today’s gospel, John 10:11-18, invites us to reflect on the Good Shepherd. This Fourth Sunday of Easter is traditionally called, “Good Shepherd Sunday.” This image of Jesus is an ancient interpretation of the love, concern and thoughtfulness of Jesus that was relevant to the people of his time.
One of the most powerful images of Pope Francis’ pontificate is his desire for a “revolution of tenderness.” This image of Jesus as shepherd is not just about an ancient characteristic of Jesus compassion, but it also an image for us today of how to be a messenger of Jesus’ resurrection and inspiration for other people.
The image of the “Good Shepherd” is not just a call for vocations within the Church. This image is also an invitation for all people to enter into the mystery of holiness. Jesus wants the best for us. Jesus’ redemptive love and compassion is real and genuine if only we could get over our pride that our sins must certainly be larger than Jesus’ love. Sometimes it is easier to hold on to our anger rather than to love, to settle for our bitterness rather than to search for healing, to cling to our hatred rather than to build relationships. The Good Shepherd listens to our unsatisfied souls and longs to bring us the peace we desire.
I am often intrigued how many of us resist an image of Jesus that is about compassion and wholeness. We enjoy separating out people from ourselves so that we can be right and others can be wrong. If we hold on to separations, then we can live a rather smug life believing that Jesus is certainly on our side and not on the side of people who really need the living Christ. Sometimes, our separations about people keep us from changing our attitudes, opinions and lives. However, the compassion of Jesus is healing and sustaining. Jesus’ invitation to live in harmony heals our sin, division and ego. The Good Shepherd helps us come home to forgiveness and integrity and justice.
We learn in our prayer and in the Eucharist that God loves us profoundly. This love changes us into becoming people of great hope. Because of the Good Shepherd’s love for us, we become this image of Jesus in our world. We open our arms to the outcasts, the lost, the sinner, the immigrant, the addict and the prideful and help people understand that hope is possible for them as well.
Pope Francis aches for the Church to become a place of mercy, understanding and compassion. He wants to ignite this revolution because he understands for himself the Good Shepherd. The living Christ is not destructive or vengeful, not full of hate or fear. I pray as well, that the Good Shepherd will invite us all into the healing we desire and then challenge us to bring people together with hope and integrity.
Here are some questions to consider this week:
How do you interpret the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd? How do you receive Jesus’ compassion? How are you being called to help shepherd others in need?