Unfortunately in our contemporary society, shepherds are seen as “romantic figures” that gently and happily care for sheep on mountainsides. The extreme danger, painful isolation, and great risks which existed for shepherds in the time of Jesus cannot be appreciated by us today. When we hear the words of Jesus about shepherds, we need to shift our understanding of what a shepherd is to the common understanding which existed over two thousand years ago. Shepherds were courageous, ever vigilant, and self-sacrificing for their flock.
In today’s gospel passage, Jesus talks for a while about the vigilance and sacrifice of a strong and worthy shepherd. In fact, Jesus refers to himself as a self-giving, generous shepherd. Jesus is addressing people who are divided and refuse to listen or speak to one another. In this passage, Jesus reminds them that He is one with the Father, and those who heed and follow Him will possess eternal life. This weekend, our first two scripture passages shed light for us as His followers. We come to understand that Saint Paul was familiar with Isaiah’s words about a suffering servant whom God would make “a light to the nations that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth”. This theme and message was never part of the ancient Hebrew Scriptures. The idea of universal salvation came very late and ever so slowly to the religious life of Israel. However, in the time of Saint Paul, the idea had arrived and Saint Paul grasped it and also tried to live it. Paul is convinced of the idea of universal salvation because of the hunger of the Gentiles for salvation. Thus Saint Paul says in our first reading: “we now turn to the Gentiles.”
You may be surprised to realize that we are the Gentiles, a good distance in time removed, of whom Isaiah spoke. We are the far-off ones of whom Isaiah spoke. We are among those who finally and at long last get a chance to hear and follow the Good Shepherd. Through Paul’s inspirational service, we are welcomed into the fold. Paul understood and insisted on this: Because of God’s revelation to Israel, all the rest of us get our chance to hear, heed, and follow.
This is the Easter Season, sometimes called “Eastertide” in the church year. During this post Easter Sunday season, our Church constantly announces and rejoices in the triumph of the Resurrection. All of us should be trying to announce the “Good News” of our salvation in Jesus Christ. We must remember that God’s grace and light can and does over power darkness and evil for all of us who are baptized into Christ Jesus are baptized into His light.BACK TO LIST