Jesus is Our Good Shepherd

4th Sunday of Easter
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

Today we honor Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd and promises to take care of the sheep entrusted to his care. We have the popular images of Jesus the Good Shepherd carrying a sheep over his shoulders, or we have a smiling Jesus sitting under a tree, with a little lamb on his lap. These images of Jesus teach us about his tenderness and his compassion. A shepherd is more than that. A shepherd walks before the sheep, seeking out a safe path, taking them to the pastures, to water, and to shelter. The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice and they trust him.

In the first reading today, St. Peter reminds his Jewish people that they have crucified their true Shepherd. They need to receive forgiveness for their sin by receiving baptism in the name of Jesus and acknowledge the risen Jesus as their Lord and Savior. In the second reading, St. Peter invites the suffering Christians to follow the example of their Good Shepherd, the suffering servant. Suffering and death help us to become more fully the children of God.

Today’s gospel says how much love Jesus has for His flock. He says: “I am the good Shepherd.” What does this mean? First of all, He is not working for pay but provides for his sheep’s needs, leading them out to pasture. He keeps them safe and healthy, he does not want them to be lost or get hurt. The good Shepherd knows each member of His flock. The Good Shepherd protects them to the point of risking his life for them, and He did. Our Good Shepherd shows the true way to the Father. He gives and leads us to, the fullness of life. He saves us from sin and death. He opens for us the gate of heaven and offers us a life of fellowship with His Father.

In this parable, Jesus compares Himself to the Shepherd and the Gate. The image of the Good Shepherd represents His ownership. The image of the Gate represents His leadership. Jesus is the gate, the only way in and out. He is the one Mediator between God and mankind: to reach heaven, all must go through Him. Jesus gives the assurance that whoever enters through him will be safe and well-cared for.

We are invited to be a shepherd to those who are entrusted to our love and care. Pastors, parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, government officials, and caregivers. We become good shepherds by loving those entrusted to us, praying for them, spending our time and blessings for their welfare, and guarding them against physical and spiritual dangers.

As we celebrate good shepherd Sunday, let us pray to the Lord that we may be His good sheep, listening attentively to His voice, and following His example of self–giving love. Let us also pray for all our shepherds, especially our religious and political leaders: may they follow the example of Jesus who was willing to serve and lay down His life for his sheep.

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