Thursday, September 25, 2008

Jesus is the Good Shepherd

Brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ,

We heard from the Gospel of John 10: 10-21 that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. It’s a nice Gospel, isn’t it? The Gospel talks about the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep. And the picture of the Good Shepherd is so beautiful that many songs and paintings have been made of it. This Gospel even has a great influence in the art. Does this Gospel also have a great influence in our life?

To answer that question we should clarify to whom this Gospel is written. For many years I have thought that this Gospel talks to popes, bishops, and priests. That’s why I accepted this Gospel wholeheartedly when I heard it in the seminary. It’s really a beautiful Gospel for the priesthood, I thought so. However, is it true that this Gospel is only talking about the priesthood life? I don’t think so, because if this Gospel is restricted only to the priest, why the Church put it in the lectionary?

Brothers and sisters, this Gospel is talking about us, about our life, not just about priesthood, but priesthood included. Let us read carefully several important lines in this Gospel. The most important line says, “I am the Good Shepherd.” What does it mean? The adjective “good” is from the Greek word: “kalos.” It has several meaning: beautiful, true, model. So Jesus is the true Shepherd and the model of shepherd. If anybody wants to be a good shepherd, Jesus is the model, because He is the true shepherd.

But who are actually the shepherds who should imitate Jesus as the true shepherd? The popes, the bishops, the priests? I’m really glad if the Gospel is just for the priest. Then it means that I am a shepherd and you are the sheep. That’s good, if I cannot sleep I just ask you all to line up and then I count you one, two, three, four….until I fall asleep. I am a shepherd and you are my sheep. I am man, you are sheep. (Oh…this Gospel makes me hungry, it reminds me to a roasted lamb, hmmm ;-)). So the Gospel is excellent for me and awful for you. If the interpretation is like that, this Gospel doesn’t match with the second reading today which said, “We should be called the children of God.” So now is up to you, you can choose to be sheep or children.

So brothers and sisters, this Gospel is talking about us. Shepherd is the symbol of the leader. Who can be a leader? The answer is various. It could be pope, bishop, priest, deacon, parents, teachers, coaches, generals, captains, or any other kinds of leader. Jesus is talking to everybody, whether they are religious or laypersons, male or female, adult or children, and Jesus is giving himself as the model of the good leadership.

The Gospel today also talks on the features of the good leadership. There are three important features of the leader.

1. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, as opposed to hired leaders (shepherd)

Jesus says, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.”
This word is so powerful, especially in the age and the world we live in. We hear parents abusing their children; even fathers and mothers slaughter their own sons or daughters. I never hear this thing happen in the animal kingdom. I never hear a ferocious lion slaughter her own offsprings, never.

However, we hear many teachers are only looking for a good salary and don’t educate their students well. They don’t teach well, they only blame their students and punish them with inappropriate punishments.

We also hear that among the peer groups, the seniors, who should be responsible and careful to the junior, are bullying the fragile juniors. School for the juniors becomes a scary place, not a peaceful and safe place to go for study.

Do we hear Jesus’ word: “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” ?

2. The good shepherd knows his sheep and the sheep know him (deep personal relationship)

Jesus says, “I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” Jesus’ word is very deep in meaning. It talks about a deep relationship between the shepherd and the sheep. They should know each other, but not just know in the surface, but to know as the Father knows the shepherd. It means that as a leader we should deeply know the people that we are responsible for, as God knows us.

It means that there should be a deep trust from and to the leader.
But from my experience many teenagers do not trust their parents because their parents cannot be trusted. They trust more to their peer friends than their parents. It could be very risky because their peer friends could be in the same problem as they are. It’s because the parents do not want to know their teenager deeply.

As friends we are also often cannot be trusted. Many times we are gossiping somebody else’s secret that has been trusted to us. So do not wonder if we cannot find any trust in our life.

Listen to Jesus: “I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.”

3. The good shepherd has desire to unite the sheep

Jesus says, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

The world we live in is a broken world. There are so many frictions and fractions, even in the Church. Once I worked in a parish as a young, newly ordained priest. There was a man from that parish who became one of the members of parish council. Because he could not make me as his puppet, he tried everything to make my programs failed, by creating gossips, frictions and fractions among the people. Then I knew that he had done that many times to the new priests before me. It really made me hurt.

The union of marriage is in peril now. The phenomena of single parent are becoming more and more usual. However, many experts say that a child cannot grow maturely and balance without the presence of the mother and the father in their growing process. But apparently, in today’s world divorce is considered as necessity when there is only a small friction in a family life. The Church’s teaching that the matrimony is indissoluble is considered as out of date teaching that should be changed with the new and “up to date” teaching.

Don’t we have a desire to unite instead of fractionating?

Do we all again and again hear Jesus’ saying: “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” ?

Brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ,

Many things that we should do. Now let us wake up and let the powerful words of God burn our heart and renew it within, so that we can be the good shepherds, whoever we are.