“Let them multiply and let the forces of evil be vanquished.”
The Gospel on this Fourth Sunday of Easter uses the metaphor of Christ as the Good Shepherd. In the Old Testament and during the time of Christ, sheep were plentiful, Israel being a pastoral society. Understandably, both the Old and the New Testaments make a lot of references to sheep and shepherds. Abel of the Book of Genesis is a shepherd and so are Abraham, Moses, and David. A number of passages in both Books use the metaphor of the shepherd in reference to God. For instance Isaiah 40 says,―He [God] will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep. It is no small wonder that Christ used the same metaphor to refer to him in relation to his people.
A good shepherd needs to know the condition of his flock in order to derive the most from his fold. He does all in his power to protect his flock because there are plenty of dangers coming from wild animals and thieves. The shepherd performs a lot of chores to ensure that the flock is protected and well-fed. He intimately knows every member of his flock and is willing to put his life in line for each and every one of them.
The Gospel of John depicts Jesus as the perfect example of sacrificial love as the Divine Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep. Jesus, as a shepherd to his sheep, is unlike a hired hand who runs away when danger pounces on his flock. In Luke we hear of the parable of the lost sheep. How happy the shepherd when he found the lost sheep, Jesus said of the shepherd.
Much like in our times, ancient Israel has had false shepherds who exploited the people and abused their authority. But faithful as always, God, through the ancient prophets, gave an assurance to his chosen people that he will send a messianic descendant of David who will feed his flock and be their shepherd.
Jesus is this Messiah. By his passion and death, he has shown to us his willingness to go all the way for us, His sheep; to sacrifice everything for His beloved. Suffering, persecution, rejection did not deter Him from His responsibility of caring for us in a total and complete way. Jesus’ example inspires, consoles, and encourages us.
The moral lesson of the gospel of the Good Shepherd is most appropriate considering that we are living in the most trying times. Almost everyone in the planet is undergoing social and economic dislocation and disruption because of the coronavirus. In this time of crisis, what nations need are shepherd-leaders who act and not only react; who unite and not divide; who inspire and not discourage; and who provide and not deprive. In the government, the best example of that today is Vice-President Leni Robredo, who celebrated her 56th birthday yesterday.
Much like Jesus, a shepherd-leader leads by example, worthy of trust, reliable, able to promote welfare of the community, and willing to sacrifice for the sake of his people. He is relational, that is, he intimately knows what is best for his flock and finally, unlike a hireling who runs at the very first sign of danger, he invests on his flock and is willing to risk his time, fortune and even his very life for the good of the fold. A shepherd-leader never threatens and exposes his flock to any kind of unnecessary and avoidable danger; the safety and well-being of his followers being foremost in his mind. In turn, people follow him, not because they are coerced or intimidated, but because they love and respect him as a leader.
These past weeks, in the person of Patreng Non, who initiated the first community pantry, we have also seen a true good shepherd in civil society. She in turn has inspired many good shepherds – from celebrities like Angel Locsin to simple people from all over the Philippines who established their own community pantries to serve the poor and hungry.
In contrast to them are government officials who have redtagged Non and others, trying to intimidate them to stop being good and kind. There is no contest of course as clearly it is the personalities of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) that are Satanic here (according to many memes where even Satan objected to his being dragged into this controversy in a way that describes a good act as Satanic), certainly anti-poor and anti-people. This is the surest way to lose the battle of hearts and minds against the Communist Party or any other imagined money.
Let the good shepherds multiply and the forces of evil be vanquished.
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