The Lord is my Shepherd

In this challenging time for me, my mantra comforts: ‘The Lord is my shepherd. There is nothing I shall want’

The fourth Sunday of Easter is commonly known as Good Shepherd Sunday, and in all three lectionary cycles, the Gospel reading is taken from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John.

This comes after the story of Jesus healing a man who was born blind and the Jewish leaders’ rejection of this miracle, which prompts Jesus to refer to himself as the Good Shepherd and criticize the Pharisees and other leaders.

This leads to further conflict with the religious leaders that continues until Jesus’ death.

In this Gospel reading, set in a moment of tension and conflict, Jesus responds to the question of whether he is the Messiah by essentially saying that if they have to ask, then they are not part of his followers.

He also asserts his unity with the Father, leading the Jews to want to stone him for blasphemy, but he escapes.

Although we may be less familiar with the metaphors of sheep and shepherd than Jesus’ original audience, the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd and his followers as sheep has endured as a primary image in our faith tradition, symbolizing the protection, security, and care that shepherds provide for their sheep.

During the time of Jesus, shepherds were an integral part of everyday life for many people.

When Jesus utilized the symbol and image of a shepherd, his audience would have grasped its significance right away.

However, what does the shepherd imagery of Jesus signify for us in modern times?

Despite sheep appearing indistinguishable to us, a shepherd is able to recognize and know each one on an individual basis.

When a shepherd calls out to a sheep, it identifies the voice and reacts accordingly.

Just like how a shepherd understands their flock, the sheep also recognizes and trusts the shepherd.

The shepherd serves as a guide and protector to the sheep, leading them to their destination.

The Good Shepherd Gospel emphasizes the familiarity and intimacy between Jesus and his disciples, who recognize and know his voice, and the close relationship between Jesus and the Father, with Jesus identifying so closely with the Father that they are one.

To know Jesus is to know the Father, and our relationship with Jesus invites us to share in the life of God, removing all distance between us.

The parable teaches that Jesus is the true and Good Shepherd who was willing to sacrifice himself for those who put their faith in him.

Any other person who claims to be the shepherd is a thief or robber, as they are false shepherds.

The message of this parable is wonderful for anyone seeking peace with God, as it reminds us that Jesus cares, watches over, and protects those who believe in him.

Although we are not comparable to sheep, the Lord regards us as individuals with distinct worth. Jesus values us on a personal and intimate level, as illustrated beautifully by the Prophet Isaiah’s words, ‘I have called you by your name, you are mine, do not be afraid. You are precious to me and I love you.’

Jesus’ devotion and love for us exceed even that of a loving shepherd for their sheep.

Jesus never coerces us into accepting his call, but instead extends a free invitation to follow him.

It is within our own discretion whether or not we choose to answer, and though we may take our time, Jesus will persistently call out to us by our name until we respond.

Jesus’ request for us to follow him is not trivial, as he offers us not only a fulfilling life, but also his own fullness of life. He came to ensure that we can experience life to the fullest in both the present and future.

The Good Shepherd passage is significant in several ways. First, it emphasizes Jesus’ relationship with his followers.

Jesus knows his sheep by name, and they recognize his voice.

This intimate relationship between the shepherd and his flock is a symbol of the relationship between Jesus and his disciples.

The Gospel highlights Jesus’ sacrifice on behalf of his followers. Jesus willingly laid down his life for his sheep, a powerful image of his love for us.

This act of sacrifice is central to Christian belief and is a key aspect of the gospel message.

And Lastly, the Good Shepherd passage encourages us to trust in Jesus and follow him.

Just as the sheep trust their shepherd to lead them to safety, we are called to trust in Jesus to lead us on the right path and protect us from harm.

As we travel through Easter and approach the celebration of Pentecost, let us all recognize the profound and personal love that Jesus holds for each and every one of us.

When Jesus calls out to us by our name, may we respond with faith, gratitude, and appreciation, and be willing to follow wherever He leads us.

Indeed, in this challenging time for me, my mantra comforts: “The Lord is my shepherd. There is nothing I shall want.”

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