Monday, May 8, 2017
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God, Father of all,
you sent your Son Jesus Christ among us
to reveal to us that you care about people
and that your love extends to all,
without any distinction of race or culture.
Give us a great respect for all people,
whatever way they come,
and let your Church embrace all cultures,
that Jesus may truly be
the Lord and Shepherd of all,
now and for ever.
2) Gospel Reading - John 10,11-18
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and the sheep do not belong to him, abandons the sheep as soon as he sees a wolf coming, and runs away, and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep; he runs away because he is only a hired man and has no concern for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. And there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and I must lead these too. They too will listen to my voice, and there will be only one flock, one shepherd.
The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will, and as I have power to lay it down, so I have power to take it up again; and this is the command I have received from my Father.
• The Gospel today presents the parable of the Good Shepherd. It is the continuation of the Gospel which we read yesterday (Sunday). It is difficult to understand the first part without the second. This is why we prefer to comment briefly on both (Jn 10, 1-18). The discourse on the Good Shepherd presents three comparisons linked among themselves:
1st comparison: Jesus speaks of the shepherd and of the thieves (Jn 10, 1-5)
2nd comparison: Jesus is the door of the sheep (Jn 10, 6-10)
3rd comparison: Jesus is the Good Shepherd (Jn 10, 11-18)
• John 10, 1-5: 1st comparison: to enter by the door and not by somewhere else. Jesus begins the discourse with the comparison of the door: “Anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate is a thief and a bandit! He who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock!” At that time, the shepherds took care of the flock the whole day. When night arrived they lead the sheep to a great community sheepfold, which was well protected against thieves and wolves. All the shepherds of the same region took their flocks there. A gatekeeper took care of them the whole night. The following day, early in the morning, the shepherd would go there, knocked with his hands on the gate and the gatekeeper would open. The shepherd would go in and call the sheep by name. The sheep recognized the voice of their shepherd would get up and go out following him to go to the pasture. The sheep of the other shepherds heard the voice, but would not move, because for them it was an unknown voice. From time to time, there was the danger of being attacked. The bandits would enter by a side path or jumped over the wall of the sheepfold, made of one rock on top of the other, in order to rob the sheep. They did not enter by the gate because the gatekeeper was there.
• John 10, 6-10: 2nd comparison: Jesus is the door. The audience, the Pharisees (Jn 9, 40-41), did not understand what it meant “to go in through the door”. Jesus then explained: “I am the gate of the sheepfold. All who have come before me are thieves and bandits”. Of whom is Jesus speaking in this phrase which is so hard? Probably, he was referring to the religious leaders who drew the people behind them but they did not respond to their expectations. They were not interested in the good of the people, but only in their own interest and in filling their pockets. They deceived the people and abandoned them to a worse situation. To enter through the gate is to act as Jesus acted. The fundamental criterion to discern who is shepherd and who is a thief is the defence of the life of the sheep. Jesus asks the people not to follow the persons who present themselves as shepherds, but who have no interest for the life of the people. “I have come in order that they have life and life in abundance!” This is the criterion!
• John 10, 11-15: 3rd comparison: Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Jesus changes the comparison. First he was the door of the flock. Now he is the Shepherd of the sheep. Everyone knew what a shepherd was and how he lived and worked. But Jesus is not just any shepherd but, he is the Good Shepherd! The image of the Good Shepherd comes from the Old Testament. Saying that he is the Good Shepherd, Jesus presents himself as the one who comes to fulfil the promises of the prophets and the expectations of the people; for example the beautiful prophecy of Ezekiel (Ex 34, 11-16). There are two points on which Jesus insists: (a) in the defence of the life of the sheep: the Good Shepherd gives his life for the life of the sheep. (b) In the mutual knowledge between the shepherd and the sheep: The shepherd knows his sheep and the sheep know the shepherd. Jesus says that the people have a particular perception and know who the Good Shepherd is. This was what the Pharisees did not accept. They despised or rejected the sheep and said they were damned and ignorant (Jn 7, 49; 9, 34). They thought they had the right and apt view to discern the things of God. In reality they were blind. The discourse on the Good Shepherd teaches two rules to cure this type of blindness, which is quite frequent: (i) to pay special attention to the reaction of the sheep, because they know the voice of the shepherd. (ii) To be very attentive to the attitude of the one who calls himself the shepherd to see if his interest is the life of the sheep, or not, and if he is capable to give his life for the life of the sheep.
• John 10, 16-18: The goal which Jesus wants to attain: one only flock and one only Shepherd. Jesus opens the horizon and says that he has other sheep that do not belong to this flock. They have not as yet heard the voice of Jesus, but when they will hear it, they will become aware that he is the shepherd and will follow him. This is the Ecumenical universal dimension.
4) Personal questions
• Shepherd – Pastoral. Does the Pastoral ministry in my Parish imitate the mission of Jesus as shepherd? And in my pastoral ministry which is my attitude? Am I a shepherd as Jesus?
• Have you had the experience of having been deceived by a false shepherd? How did you succeed in overcoming this?
5) Concluding Prayer
As a deer yearns for running streams,
so I yearn for you, my God.
I thirst for God, the living God;
when shall I go to see the face of God? (Ps 42,1-2)