The Fourth Sunday of Easter
We continue to enter into our Paschal reflections with images that encourage us and challenge us to live our faith more deeply. Those points of reflection invite us to center our faith on Jesus, who knows us and calls us by name to serve. This Fourth Sunday of Easter, we find the image of the Good Shepherd. In the Old Testament, Yahweh was the shepherd of His people (Gen 49:24, Ps 23: 1).
God’s purpose was to shepherd His people through their leaders. Some of these leaders were models – loyal and worthy of being imitated. Such was the case with Moses, Joshua, David, the prophets, etc. There was good reason to often use the figure of a shepherd with his sheep in biblical times, because it was an image people could easily identify in their cultural context.
Middle Eastern cultures understood what being a pastor was all about! It was feeding the lambs and the sheep, bringing them to the good pastures and water, cleaning and shearing them, assisting in the birth of new lambs, teaching them to stay together, to look for the lost sheep and to protect the sheep. Here is the analogy: Sheep have a natural tendency to get away and get lost. As believers, we tend to do the same. The lost lambs are in danger of being attacked, even killed by drowning or falling from precipices.
Similarly, within our own nature, there is a strong tendency to go astray. As such, we are like wandering sheep, far from the shepherd, through our own self-sufficiency and futile attempts at self-righteousness. It is our nature to walk away, to reject God, and to break His commandments. When we do this, we run the risk of losing ourselves, even forgetting the way back to God — the Good Shepherd.
When we turn away from the Lord, we are soon faced with one enemy after another who will attack us in many ways. Sheep are basically defenseless creatures that cannot survive long without a shepherd; they are totally dependent.
In the same way as sheep, we are totally dependent on the Lord to guide, protect, and care for us. Shepherds in biblical times faced incredible dangers in tending their sheep, putting their own lives at risk by fighting wild animals such as wolves and lions that threatened the flock. In order to be good shepherds, they had to be willing to lay down their lives for the sheep.
Jesus declared that He is our Shepherd and He demonstrated it by giving His life for us. Let us pray to the Good Shepherd so that He also creates in us hearts willing to hear His voice, which calls us by name.
Have a blessed week!