Today we hear the beautiful Gospel of the Good Shepherd who does not flee from the wolves but is prepared to lay down his life for the sheep. Many, if not most, of us who read this see it as a call to be like the Good Shepherd, to stand fast in the face of evil and protect those around us. That is, perhaps, one of the many things Jesus wants to take from this parable, but I believe that we are missing the rather obvious point if that’s what we take away from today’s Gospel. That so-obvious-we-often-miss-it point? We are the sheep. Christ says, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16) Israel was the original flock, and we are the sheep that belonged to another fold. Christ came to add us to his flock. We are the sheep who will hear his voice and unite as one flock with one shepherd. Well… We are the sheep, unless we have chosen to follow Satan and become one of the wolves.
Jesus Christ is the one and only Good Shepherd. If we follow anyone else, we are not in safe hands. We must follow the voice of the one who conquered death. We hear in the Easter Sequence “Death with life contended: // combat strangely ended! // Life’s own Champion, slain, // yet lives to reign. […] Christ is truly risen // from the dead we know. // Victorious King, Thy mercy show!” (Victimae paschali laudes, ICEL trans.)
The battle of the Good Shepherd against the wolves is already won. The real question is not, “Am I like the Good Shepherd?” but, “Do I follow his voice when I hear it? Do I allow him to protect me?” St. Peter tells us that “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” (Acts 4:12) If we follow Christ’s voice, we will be saved, but if we instead follow the voices of this world, the voices of power, money, carnal pleasure, gender ideology, politics, or whatever else is floating around, then we will not be saved. We will become one of the wolves who scatter and capture, dragging others down to hell with us.
God has bestowed his love upon humanity and invited us to become his children. When we were baptized, we were given that title: Child of God. We don’t entirely grasp how glorious this is because we don’t grasp the glory of God. We were created in the image and likeness of God. We were adopted as his sons and daughters at our Baptism. Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, came to this earth to call us to himself so that he might save us from the wolves of sin and death. We have been invited to join God in an eternal life of joy after we pass from this earth. This is the destiny to which every one of us are called.
Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete once said, “Our first interest is in our own destiny, and it that is not there, there is no way we can be interested in anything beyond that. To say that, the accusation, the fear will immediately grow in us that I am being selfish. I should first take care of the needs of other people; I should care first more about other people, and then about me. But you cannot care about anyone else unless you care about yourself. […] Christ presents himself as our Redeemer because he rescues, strengthens, safeguards this interest in our destiny.” (Albacete, Culture at the Crossroads (online PDF), pg. 63)
Let us look to the glorious destiny to which we have been called. We are the beloved children of God. We are the sheep protected by the Good Shepherd. “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)
April 25, 2021
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Acts 4:8-12; Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18