Our Patron and Savior
Throughout the gospels Jesus preaches in parables and makes comparisons. In John’s Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Easter (John 10:11-18) he is more direct and to the point. He says, “I AM”. Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees, addressing their “spiritual blindness”. He says “I am the good shepherd”.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd
On April 22nd we will celebrate our Patron Saint, Jesus as the Good Shepherd. This is an ancient image from the earliest days of the church. We often see Jesus portrayed as suffering and dying on the cross, which in the first centuries of Christianity invoked fear and was still too painful to look at.
We don’t find many shepherds today so it might not be easy to relate to this image of Jesus. In the time of Jesus, Palestinian shepherds were tough, earthy men who seemed fearless in the face of wolves and thieves. The ancient shepherds were committed to their career however not to the point of sacrificing their lives. In the face of life threatening conditions they would run. Jesus however clearly states that “a good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”. Surely this does not suggest that Jesus is criticizing the shepherds of his time. They were hired to do a job and must have done it well. They, however, had a responsibility to provide for their families and were not in a position to risk their life in such a way.
Pictures of Jesus
My earliest encounters with Jesus were from the pictures in our family bible. The image of Jesus on a high cliff, reaching down to save a stranded sheep was the most touching of all for me. I would gaze at that picture and see only love. That’s Jesus our savior, the good shepherd, who reaches out to us when we are stranded. No cliff is too high for him and every sheep is important. He laid down his life so that we might find new life. Let’s celebrate this love on Good Shepherd Sunday and all the Sundays of our days.