The theme for today is “Good Shepherd Sunday.” The very words call us to think about Jesus, pastors and the call to be flock of the Lord. In ancient times, shepherds were believed to be men without honor because they left their families unattended while they took sheep out to pasture. When our Lord referred to Himself as the “Good” shepherd, His listeners thought the very idea was an oxymoron (a contradiction). But His words were calling people to look more deeply at what is required of the person who is the shepherd. A shepherd can be noble, sensitive and righteous. As Jesus said, “The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”
The shepherd led his flock to nourishment and he watched over them as they drank by the stream. At night, a new demand was placed upon his shoulders. After finding a safe location for their rest, he would watch them enter the gate, noticing whether they were healthy or sustained some injury.
While they slept, the shepherd had to keep vigilant and yet get enough sleep for the following day. Jesus says that the Good Shepherd is the “gate”. The good shepherd would lay across the entrance and become the gate. In this way, he could stop any sheep from leaving the safe area.
Even though the Gospel passage seems peaceful, Jesus warns that the flock is in danger from those who want to disrupt and harm. He says that the shepherd must remain vigilant because thieves can find entrance and steal the sheep away. Jesus assures us that He is the Gate and all who enter through Him will be safe. As long as we are in Him, Jesus will save us from the thieves who enter our sheepfold and tempt us away by distorting the faith.
Jesus is the very embodiment of the Father’s loving care for us. We are His sheep and He calls us to watch for and be open to receive His providence. God is constantly on our side and the Good Shepherd never goes on vacation.
Today in our church, 33 children will come forward and receive the Good Shepherd in their First Holy Communion. Let us pray for them, that their First Holy Communion may open their hearts to the deeply rich relationship Jesus desires to have with each of us, the sheep oh His flock.