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The Fourth Sunday of Easter is called Good Shepherd Sunday. In describing himself as the Good Shepherd, (cf s1S#28, Shepherd, 4/25/21), Jesus repeated in today’s gospel (John 10:11-18) the verb “lay down” (his life for his sheep) 5 times (vv 11, 15, 17, 18 x2). tithēmi (τίθημι), is a common verb meaning “put,” “set,” or “lay (down),” in the literal, mundane sense. But when attributed to the Lord, it specifically points to the gesture of Christ “laying down his life for his sheep”(John 10:15ff). The offer of his disciples to do the same is noted in John 13:37ff. The sublime nature of someone making such a sacrifice is described in John 15:13.

The shepherd/sheep imagery, already frequent in the Hebrew Scriptures, appears early in the gospel tradition (Mk 6:34; 14:27) and here in John receives a later and more explicit elaboration of Christ’s pastoral mission. Under two headings, Jesus is presented as the dedicated shepherd. First, he gives his life for his flock, something alien to the thinking of a hired hand. The latter’s mercenary interests are in no way comparable to the unqualified dedication of the true shepherd (vv11f). Second, the true shepherd is personally familiar with his own (vv14f). There is a mutual experiential knowledge between Christ and the Christian which is a reflection of the knowledge of the Father and Son. This motif of the mutual relationship between Jesus and the Father being extended to include the believer (the indwelling) figures prominently in Jesus’ later priestly discourse (Jn 17).

John’s gospel presents Jesus as the model shepherd in his spirit of dedication and willingness to surrender his life for his sheep. Let us always listen to him for he is the only way to the Father and in him alone is salvation. May we his flock one day reach where our brave Shepherd has gone before and share in the joys of heaven. Amen!

 

s1S#28 Shepherd

“…Pastoral language was used figuratively throughout the ancient Near East and in the Hellenistic world. The title shepherd was applied both to gods and kings, (e.g. Hammurabi, god Shamash, cf Nh 3:18). When used in the OT, ro’ēh ( רֹ֥עֵה ), it is interesting to note that it refers, most of the time to rulers of the people (like the king, royal officers, elders, and judges), in a negative way, since God is considered the true shepherd of Israel and the leaders as his subordinate herdsmen, they often fall short of God’s standards. Thus they were condemned for their infidelity and stupidity, for scattering and leading them astray, (cf Jer 10:21, 22:22, 23:1-4; Ez 34:1-10; Zec 10:3, 11:4-17)…

In the NT, the most explicit reference given about the fulfillment of the prophecy is in John 10:1-29 where Jesus refers to himself as the ‘the good shepherd, “poimēn” ( ποιμὴν ), who lays down his life for his sheep’, (cf Mt 26:31; Mk 14:27). Thus in the gospels Jesus claimed that his mission was ‘to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’, (Mt 10:6, 15:24), and seeking the lost sheep exemplifies his love, (Mt 18:12-14; Lk 15:3-7; cf. Mk 6:34); while the separation of the sheep and goats by the shepherd was compared to judgment, (Mt 25:32). In the letters Jesus is called ‘the great shepherd of the sheep’, (Heb 13:20), ‘the shepherd and guardian of your souls’, (1 Pt 2:25), and the ‘chief shepherd’, (1 Pt 5:4).

Jesus is indeed ‘the good shepherd’, or practically, he is the model shepherd, as each one of us is called in the ‘service of shepherding’, be it in the religious or secular context or both. So it is incumbent on each one of us to imitate him. In a special way, we pray and call on our leaders in the government and the church that they may selflessly prioritize the needs of the flock…and not their personal and/or political interests. And that they, and every one of us, continue to listen only to the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and not to the cacophony of voices peddled by hired men or mercenaries through social media…”

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Veritas Editorial

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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