Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter
The feast of the Dedication was then taking place in Jerusalem. It was winter. And Jesus walked about in the temple area on the Portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”John 10:22-24
A wintry chill descended upon the temple in Jerusalem as Jesus’ enemies encircled the shepherd like wolves. The Light of the World outshone all the candles of the Festival of Lights (Hanukkah, Feast of Dedication), but his enemies preferred darkness.
“How long will you take away our life?” they asked the one who is Life itself (see NABRE footnote to John 10:24).
Hearts and ears were closed to Jesus, though his opponents seemed to seek a straight answer about his messiahship.
Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me. But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep.John 10:25-26
Believing is not automatic. Signs and wonders, teaching, and fulfillment of prophecies do not necessarily awaken faith. The human heart has an unfathomable capacity to resist whatever it wants to resist. Every argument has a counter-argument. Faith is not ultimately a matter of debate, but of trust in a divine person. Faith is friendship.
Signs and wonders have limited efficacy. Stories in the Torah abound with signs and wonders that failed to produce lasting change. The ten plagues of Egypt rolled off the hardened heart of Pharaoh. The parting of the Red Sea, water from the rock, and “bread from heaven” (manna) did not prevent grumbling or craving for the “fleshpots of Egypt.”
“You do not believe,” Jesus said, because you have no relationship with me. My sheep seek green pastures, still waters, healing, rest, and life from me (Psalm 23).
My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.John 10:27-28
No one can snatch the sheep of the divine shepherd. Not even death, the last enemy in this world (1 Corinthians 15:26), can destroy the Good Shepherd and his sheep.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”John 29:30
The buck stops with the Father. Jesus can be mocked, scourged, and crucified for a time, but “the Father and I are one.” The Good Shepherd will return to the Father with the sheep given to him. The Father is better than a surety or guarantee. His Word is not just a promise or an oath, but a person—his only-begotten Son.
4th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday (Year I)
Hebrews 13:15-17, 20-21; Psalm 23; Mark 6:30-34
The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.Mark 6:30-34
Jesus, a spring in the desert for the thirsty and bread for the hungry, was moved with compassion at the sight of the lost and weary.
My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.John 10:27
Here was a shepherd and high priest who loved his flock and was ready to set aside his own need to get away and rest in order to feed others. The burdens and troubles of his brothers and sisters did not weigh him down; no one was too mangled or misshapen to receive his healing touch. The ineradicable image of God radiated from every person he encountered.
Jesus invites us to come to him just as we are, and he will lift us up like a lamb on his shoulders.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.Psalm 23:1-2
In verdant pastures he gives me repose.
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
Jesus is the model for all shepherds and priests. May our leaders drink deeply from the wellspring of Christ, in the living waters of the Holy Spirit, and lead us to the Father.
May the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep by the blood of the eternal covenant, Jesus our Lord, furnish you with all that is good, that you may do his will. May he carry out in you what is pleasing to him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever [and ever]. Amen.Hebrews 13:20-21
“I am the Good Shepherd.” This is one of the names Jesus often used to describe himself and his mission. The Old Testament before him used this same image to describe God. So, Psalm 21 begins “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
During the Easter season the church favors portraying Jesus in symbolic ways: “I am the vine,” “I am the Bread of Life,” and the description of him in our gospel: “I am the Good Shepherd.” That is because we know the Risen Christ now, not by seeing him, but in signs and symbols.
The Good Shepherd is a many-faceted image. On one hand, Jesus says he is the shepherd who goes in search of his lost sheep, and when he finds it he cradles it tenderly in his arms and brings it back to the flock. However far we stray, he will search for us and lead us back to the safety and comfort of his presence.
But the shepherd also leads his sheep and guides them through “a dark valley” into experiences and ways they cannot know. So, during the Easter season we read the story of the journey of the early church. Now, as then, Jesus is the shepherd leading his church into paths unknown, until finally she comes into “green pastures.”
He will lead each of us on our journey. Like sheep we feed intently on the small plot of life our eyes fall on. But the Good Shepherd is never far from us. No, we do not see him; but he is always near. We can trust him, “the shepherd and guardian of our souls.”