O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people; Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Acts 4: 5-12
1st John 3:16-24
John 10: 11-18
This is the day on the Church calendar that is signified as “The Good Shepherd” Sunday. It is celebrated each year on the fourth Sunday in the Easter season and the readings draws our attention once again to Jesus being our Good Shepherd.
The Psalm appointed for today is Psalm 23, possibly the best known of all the Psalms both by believers and non-believers. The words of the psalmist remind us that the good shepherd leads his sheep by still waters, he restores their souls and walks with them through the valley of the shadow of death.
In his Gospel, John compared the good shepherd to a hired hand who is not really committed to the safety and well-being of the sheep. John tells his readers that the good shepherd knows his sheep by name and that they know his voice. But the most significant difference between the good shepherd and the hired hand is that one is willing give up his life order to protect his flock while the latter is not.
The people who heard Jesus speak would have been very familiar with the imagery of the shepherd as it was possibly the most ancient of professions; while agriculture and construction and medicine had changed through the years, the task and commitment of the shepherd had changed little since the time of Abraham. Everyone would have been able to relate to the imagery of the good shepherd.
The Latin word for shepherd translates as pastor. In today’s world the pastor is one who tends to the needs of his spiritual flock. Hopefully he or she knows his people and they know his voice and they are prepared to follow him.
When we look at the 23rd Psalm, it’s interesting to note, however, that the word sheep is never mentioned and so we might be reminded that our focus should be on the shepherd and not on the sheep. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.” Let’s take a moment to look at those five words. He said, “I am the good shepherd.” He used the present tense verb. Had Jesus not experienced the resurrection, he might well have said, “I was the good shepherd.” But, Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. Some 2000 years later and he still “is” our shepherd. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.” He didn’t say I am “a” good shepherd because he set himself apart as being the only good shepherd. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd” and the word in the Greek for “good” means more than in ethical terms but in terms of love and sympathy and concern for others.
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is often referred to as the good shepherd or the great shepherd or the chief shepherd. In Revelation, Jesus is described as one who will lead the faithful to rivers of living water. In the Old Testament, David was called the shepherd of Israel. So, it may be easy to visualize Jesus as he is pictured in many stained glass windows with a lost lamb draped around his neck…returning it safety. So when we hear Jesus refer to himself as being the good shepherd it may be difficult not to see ourselves as sheep.
And where does that leave us? Sheep are dumb! They have limited vision and virtually no means of self-protection. They need a shepherd if they are to survive. Are you being described here? How often do you simply follow the crowd without giving any thought as to where they are going? How often do you fell a sense of helplessness with no defense against the dangers of today’s society?
We need to recognize and acknowledge that Jesus is prepared to guide us through our daily lives. He is capable of providing us with a security that can only come from God. And, he has already laid down his life in order to prove both his love and that of his father for each of his wayward sheep; and this is truly the message meant for this Easter season.
The Good Shepherd is good….all the time. Yesterday, today, tomorrow and forever. Amen.
An Act of Spiritual Communion
“My Jesus, I belie that you are present in the holy sacrament of your body and blood. I love you above all things and I desire to receive you into my soul. Since I cannot at this time receive you sacramentally, I invite you to come spiritually into my heart. I embrace you as if you were here with me and I unite myself with you fully. Never permit me to be separated from you. Amen
A Prayer for the Church and Benediction:
Almighty and everliving God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, hear our prayers this parish family. Strengthen the faithful, arouse the careless, and restore the penitent. Grant us all things necessary for our common life, and bring us all to be of one heart and mind within your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among you, and remain with you always. Amen.