Readings for today all point to the pastoral ministry of Christ.
I would like to start with a question. Why does Christ see himself as a shepherd and the people as sheep? Perhaps he could have chosen dogs or cats that show more love, loyalty and obedience to their master. While these have a place inside the master’s house, the lamb has a place outside the house. So why does Jesus choose the lamb?
A general assessment is that life is impossible for the sheep without a shepherd. Sheep are incapable of chasing away hunters, escaping from enemies, setting up shelters, searching for food, or finding springs on their own. They are also animals that can live together. Moreover, in order for anyone to benefit from their life, sheep must be under the care of a shepherd. Otherwise, they will do no good other than fall prey to the enemy.
Then, when Christ Himself is considered the Shepherd, the helpless condition of the sheep becomes clear. In fact, what man has to be proud of. “All things come from God.. our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding” (1 Ch 29:14-16). So says the psalmist. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Ps 127:1).
Yes. Man is as helpless as sheep, so he needs a shepherd. At the same time, this Shepherd can act in two ways. One is to love the sheep and sacrifice one’s life for them or kill the sheep and live for oneself.
Jesus gave his life for us and revealed that he is the true Good Shepherd. To carry out His mission on earth, He provides us with shepherds from time to time, as God has promised through the prophet Jeremiah, “I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding” (Jeremiah 3:15).
In particular, today, let us pray for all pastors, especially for Pope Francis, for the bishops, for all the clergy and let us also pray for new vocations.
In the Gospel, when Jesus speaks, two things hold our attention. He says: “My sheep listen to my voice and follow me. I will give them eternal life.”
“My sheep listen to my voice. Listening... This is something important. Jesus is not saying to follow the sheep in front of you. Rather, he says to listen to the Shepherd.
Why is listening so important? It is important because the virtue of faith is given to one who listens. That is why St Paul, the apostle, said: “faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ” (Rm 10:17). The first reference in Scripture that someone listened to His voice was Abraham, whom we call the Father of faith. In the book of Genesis, we read, “I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give to your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants, all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves: because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” (Genesis 26: 4-5).
The fullness of the blessing that God bestowed on Abraham is found in today’s second reading from the book of Revelation: “a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” It is the symbol of the Church. Yes, the Church is the real sheep. Those who hear the voice of the true Shepherd are gathered together in one faith.
Dear ones, let us examine ourselves. Do we really hear the voice of the Shepherd today? Do we recognise His voice? To recognise Shepherd’s voice amid many noises, one must first know what Shepherd’s voice is. How can we know that? Read the Word of God. Often, we do not understand God’s voice because we do not know what His voice is.
When a baby is born, his vision is not well developed. However, it is said that he recognises his mother by listening to her voice. Therefore, it is essential that we, as infants, hear the Shepherd’s voice over and over again in spiritual life.
Due to the lack of prior experience, we would not be able to follow him. So it is important to set aside some time each day to read the Word of God. Because if Jesus is the Word incarnate and the Scriptures are the Word inspired. So we need to have devotion and respect for the Word of God.
What happens if you follow this Shepherd. He says: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.” That is the difference. It’s true that we become better people, and thereby, we become more ethically upright. We indeed begin to work more and more for justice. We become more committed to the ways of peace and brotherhood. All that’s true, but if that’s all there is to it, it’s no different than following any other spiritual teacher. But those who follow Christ receive eternal life.
How does He give us eternal life? It is through the sacraments. Look at Psalm 23rd, of the Good Shepherd, also known as the Psalm of the Sacraments, which says, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want; he makes me lie down in green pastures.” The green lawn is the living and life-giving words of the Scriptures that nourish believers. That is why it is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8: 3). “He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul”. Through baptism, He gives us a new life and opens the way to holiness through primary justification. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, the cross, comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; yes indeed. Through the Holy Eucharist, we become full partakers of eternal life. “Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup overflows”. The perfection of the Spirit is deposited in us through the sacrament of Confirmation. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”. Yes, the sacrament of healing, or mercy, that heals the wounded when they stumble, accompanies us throughout our lives. “And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Yes, we will live forever in His presence with one Shepherd and one people.