Thursday, April 26, 2012
He walks with us
April 25, 2012
John 10: 11-18
The symbol of Jesus as the good shepherd is annoying to some Christians today. We don't want to be treated like sheep in a flock. We don't need anybody to rule and control our lives. We want to be respected. We don't need any shepherd.
The first Christians didn't feel that way. The figure of Jesus the good shepherd soon became one of the most beloved images of Jesus. In the catacombs, He was already depicted bearing the lost sheep on his shoulders. No one was thinking of Jesus as an authoritarian pastor dedicated to keeping an eye on and controlling His followers, but as a good shepherd who takes care of them.
The "good shepherd" worries about His sheep. It's his first trait. He never abandons them. He doesn't neglect them. He is aware of them. He is always attentive to the weakest and sickest ones. He isn't like the hired shepherd who, when he sees some danger, flees to save his life, abandoning the flock. He doesn't care about the sheep.
Jesus had left an indelible memory. The gospel stories describe Him as concerned about the sick, the marginalized, the little ones, the most defenseless and neglected ones, the ones who are most lost. He doesn't seem to be concerned about Himself. He is always seen thinking of others. The destitute matter to Him above all.
But there's something more. "The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep." It's the second trait. This language is repeated five times in the gospel of John. Jesus' love for the people is limitless. He loves others more than Himself. He loves everyone with the love of a good shepherd who doesn't run away in the face of danger, but gives his life to save the flock.
Therefore, the image of Jesus the "good shepherd" soon became a message of comfort and confidence for His followers. The Christians learned to address Jesus with the words taken from the 23rd Psalm: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...Even though I walk through the darkest valley, nothing will I fear, for you are with me...your goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life."
We Christians often have a rather poor relationship with Jesus. We need to have a more alive and affectionate experience. We don't believe He cares for us. We forget that we can go to Him when we are tired and without strength or lost and disoriented.
A Church that is made up of Christians who relate to a poorly known Jesus, one who is confessed only in a doctrinal way, a distant Jesus whose voice isn't well heard in the communities, runs the risk of forgetting its Shepherd. But, who will care for the Church if not its Shepherd?