Good Shepherd Sunday
In our Scriptures the image of the shepherd is used to describe someone who cares deeply; someone who leads with integrity; someone who supports the weak, rescues those who are in danger, and seeks out those who are lost.
Today’s Gospel presents Jesus as our Good Shepherd and the gateway to the ultimate condition of safety and fullness of life.
He knows each of us personally, he calls each of us by name so that we may know that he recognises us and cares for us personally.
It is as we accept his personal interest in us, and his care for us, that we may then begin to explore and to seek out what it is that he has to offer us and then be inspired to follow after him.
He has offered up his life for us, in love, in order to bring about a new kind of life for all of us, the life of God’s love which is greater than death.
He invites each one of us to follow after him so that in doing so we may find that risen life which he has made possible, and so that we may have it to the full.
Unfortunately we don’t always recognise his personal care for us and we don’t follow him in his ways. We often ‘get lost’ in the journeys of our lives as we are afflicted by sufferings and losses of one kind or another.
Today’s second reading reminds us that Christ is the shepherd and guardian of our souls, but not from any privileged position above the messiness and pains of life.
While he does invite us to follow him into a life of goodness and love, he does so facing up to our weaknesses and our failures and even our sins. He is willing to pay the cost of leading us all out of ‘the valley of darkness’.
He does this by sharing our life completely, he has become one of us, in fact he has become one of the most vulnerable of all the sheep, the lamb of sacrifice.
“He was bearing our faults in his own body on the cross, so that we might die to our faults and live for holiness; through his wounds you have been healed. You had gone astray like sheep, but now you have come back to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” [1 Peter 2:24-25, from today’s second reading]
Today’s responsorial psalm ends with the great promise that the good shepherd does not leave us on our own. The shepherd who wants us to follow him ‘into the Lord’s own house, to dwell there forever and ever’ does help us to follow him there, he does so by being the one who follows after us with his ‘goodness and kindness all the days of our lives’.
Fr. Peter Briscoe