From the Pastor – May 7, 2017

shortprayers.usJesus said:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (Jn 10:1-3)

This week is the Fourth Sunday in Easter, and it is traditionally known as “Good Shepherd Sunday” because of the Gospel reading today in which Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd. We’re all familiar with the images: Jesus standing, staff in hand, with the lamb across his shoulders. We have a beautiful stained-glass image of this in the stairway leading up to the choir loft. In fact, it’s the screensaver on my phone! Or perhaps we think of Jesus sitting under a tree – a little lamb on his lap. These are beautiful images, but they are incomplete.

For thousands of years, the Jewish people have used the Good Shepherd image to refer to God. It goes back to Genesis 49:24, where Joseph was saved “By the power of the mighty one of Jacob, by the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, the God of your father…” Such imagery was used by Moses and most of the prophets. And it was used most familiarly by David in the 23rd Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

So when Jesus described himself as the Good Shepherd, he wasn’t singling out the nicest herdsmen in the field. He was pointing to the prophecies about Himself. He was revealing Himself as God. But within this revelation was something knew. Jesus says at Jn 10:11 that “A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” Now this might seem a bit extreme. Sure, the shepherd loved the sheep. Sure he protected, fed and led them. But most of us would find it strange to give up our life for animals.

And that’s what happened, and that’s what is revealed in Revelations. “the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them.” So the Good Shepherd is also the Lamb of God. And that Lamb of God lays down his life for the other lambs. The infinite God becomes a lamb, and allows Himself to be led to the slaughter on the altar of the cross. Behold the Lamb of God, slain on the cross to take away the sins of the world!

During the recent remembrance of Good Friday, I described the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. I tried to imagine why would God allow Himself to be so brutally slaughtered by sinful men. The theological answer would be that He did it to show how much He loves us. It’s hard to wrap our minds around a love that strong. I can’t explain the “why” He would die for us. But I know that He did.
Rev. Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty