Jesus our Good Shepherd, the Gift & the Giver Himself

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The Lord Is My Chef Easter Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday in the Easter Season, Cycle B, 21 April 2024
Acts 4:8-12 ><}}}}*> 1 John 3:1-2 ><}}}}*> John 10:1-10
Photo by author, dusk at Anvaya Cove in Bataan, 15 April 2024.

My kinakapatid is turning 60 this week with a dinner to be prepared by an Italian chef. His sister texted me for my main course and I chose lamb chops. And immediately she replied, “Pareho tayo. Mary’s little pet… the one who takes away the sins of the world.” Her wit floored me that I had to agree with a text, “Right. The most biblical and holiest food.”

Sorry for some little bragging as we celebrate this fourth Sunday in Easter as “Good Shepherd Sunday”…

We Filipinos have a hard time getting the “feel” of the shepherd because we have never had that image in our culture. Hence, it is a most welcomed development that there is now a growing popularity in tending sheep in the country while the Filipino palate had finally discovered a taste for lamb.

Come to think of this: the sheep exists only for two reasons, for food and clothing. They are meant to be slaughtered unlike dogs or cats or birds kept as pets. Another notable thing with sheep is the fact it is the only land animal that go against the flow when crossing a river like the salmon!

Photo by Dra. Mylene A. Santos, MD, at Katmon Nature Sanctuary & Beach Resort in Infanta, Quezon, 03 April 2024.

Ilove those characteristics of the sheep, for slaughtering which is almost like offering and always going against the tide. Exactly just like our Lord Jesus Christ who identified Himself as the good shepherd.

Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to raise it up again. This command I have received from my Father (John 10:11, 17-18).

See the flow of the Lord’s statements.

First we notice here His use of the “I AM” which for the Jews refers to God when He told Moses “I AM WHO AM.” Clearly, Jesus was declaring to the people at that time that He is the Son of God, the awaited Messiah or Christ.

This scene was shortly before the feast of the dedication of the Jews after Jesus had healed a man born blind, a miracle never heard of at that time. It was a big issue then as authorities refused to accept that Jesus did indeed healed the man born blind.

Secondly, Jesus mentioned four times in just three verses the act of “laying down his life for the sheep” (vv. 11, 17, and 18). It sounded so good to hear how Jesus loves us so much that He would lay down His life for us his sheep; but, those were not just mere words Jesus expressed but a reality that happened at the Cross on Good Friday that He actually explained after this discourse at their Last Supper!

Keep in mind that we are now going back to the earlier discourses and teachings of Jesus that only became clear to the disciples including us today after Easter. We shall be having a lot of these “flashbacks” to understand and love Jesus more and His teachings.

Photo from https://aleteia.org/2019/05/12/three-of-the-oldest-images-of-jesus-portrays-him-as-the-good-shepherd/.

According to Pope Benedict XVI in his first book of the Jesus of Nazareth series, “The Cross is at the center of the shepherd discourse” (page 280). When Jesus said “This is my Body… This is my Blood”, He meant really Himself being given for us; Jesus did not merely give something for us but His very self as seen on the Cross on Good Friday.

That is how Jesus gives life – by giving up His life for us so that when He arose, we then share in His being a good shepherd through our little dying to ourselves because of love, giving life to those around us.

As the good shepherd, Jesus was the first to enter death, to be slaughtered but this time minus the violence and gore of the Cross that was the worst punishment of all time when He said “I lay down my life in order to take it up again”. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.”

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Yes, there was victimhood but more than that was His being an offering never forced nor imposed by anyone or by circumstances. Jesus did it all for love!

Though He was handed over (paradidomi) and betrayed by Judas, Jesus was totally free, actively passive went to his Passion and Death because He was very certain of His Resurrection.

We experience the same thing many times in life when we have to make great sacrifices like when we have to allow a loved one to die after a long illness. Death is a grace and a blessing when freely given too by those around the dying, freeing the dying person of any guilt when he/she finally goes.

The same thing is true when friends and lovers separate either because they have found other loves to pursue or worst, have fallen out of love with us despite all our love for them. It is the most unkindest cut of all breakups and separations, excruciatingly painful as we blindly give up our relationships ironically for love. More than the persons and circumstances involved, we freely choose to let go – magparaya in Filipino – because deep in our wounded and hollowed heart is the hope they may grow in their new love.

Here we are like Jesus the Good Shepherd because even in the death of our relationships is still found our love. Like Jesus Christ, we do not simply give something but our very selves. The Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner beautifully expressed this when he described Jesus is both “the Gift and the Giver.”

Photo by Dra. Mylene A. Santos, MD of the sheep’s wool, 03 April 2024.

Love is better shown than said. Love cannot be defined but only be described for it is so wide and vast in its nature and scope. Love simply shows itself. That is why when we speak of love, we use comparisons and analogies and yet, they are not enough. How much more when we speak of the love of God?!

This Sunday, Jesus spoke of His love like every human being using the language of parable and allegories. But truly Divine, we find so much more when He claimed “I AM the good shepherd.” It is His total person and self, His being both the Gift and the Giver.

The good news is, because of His giving of self, we too have become like Him able to give ourselves wholly in love. Like Peter in the first reading, we experienced great powers within us not innately ours but God working in us, enabling us to empower others by healing them not literally but figuratively speaking.

When Jesus declared “I AM the good shepherd”, He reminds us of being the children of God, His indwelling, our being an “I AM” of God Himself. Like Him, we are good shepherds able to love in Christ to the point of being foolish as St. Paul experienced.

Like the sheep, let us continue to forge on with life’s many difficulties, even if many times we have to go against the flow of the world that is always selfish and misleading. Let us pray:

Dearest Jesus,
help me to give more of myself
not just of something from me;
help me to lay down my life
for my friends even if it means
not just losing myself but
losing them in order to gain You;
help me to remain in You,
my Good Shepherd,
to never go astray
because life and love
are found only in You,
the Gift and Giver.
Amen.
Have a blessed week ahead!
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