Fourth Sunday of Easter, B
Acts 4:8-12; 1Jn 3:1-12; Jn 10:11-18
Jesus the Good Shepherd, the Christian model of care and concern
It is so evident that human beings are relational in nature. J. Mbitti says it well: “I am because WE are and, since we are, therefore I am” Our relationships can reveal our identity as in the saying, ‘show me your friend and I will tell you who you are.’ In presenting himself as the ‘good shepherd’ in today’s gospel, Jesus reveals something of his relationship with us. In fact the entire gospel brings out some salient attributes of Christ’s relationship with us, and, which at the same time, constitute the pillars of good and meaningful relationships among priests , Christians, parents and children, wives and husbands, employers and employees, and what have you.
These attributes include self -sacrifice, care and concern, knowledge of each other, mutual understanding and dialogue. As a good shepherd, he lays down his life for us on the cross and offers himself daily to us in the Eucharist. There is no greater than love this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (Jn 15:13). Our Lord invites us always, ‘come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give rest’ (Mtt 11:28). Besides, he means what he says: “I know mine and mine knows me”. Jesus knows us through and through; he knows our thoughts, our ways, our deeds, he knows it all. We too know him because he would say, “I no longer call you slaves but friends because I have revealed to you everything I learnt from my Father.”(Jn 15:15) Because of this knowledge, we can hear his voice and speak to him in prayer-dialogue.
A closer look at Psalm 23 reveals how the Lord watches over us, day and night: The Lord is my Shepherd-that’s a relationship: I shall not want- that’s supply. He makes me lie down in green pasture-That’s rest. He leads me besides the still waters-That’s refreshment. He restores my soul-that’s healing. He leads me in the path of righteousness-that’s guidance. For his name sake-that’s purpose. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death-that’s testing. I will fear no evil-that’s protection. For thou art with me-that’s faithfulness. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me-that’s discipline…
Indeed, Jesus doesn’t call us to be good shepherds in a vacuum, but he wants us to build and maintain meaningful relationships after his own heart. First and foremost, we must strive to know the people we call friends. You can’t say someone is your friend when you don’t really know who that person is. It is even more dangerous to rush into serious relationships with people we haven’t taken time to know. Knowledge in this sense must take into account the nitty gritty of the person’s personality-weaknesses, strengths, temperament, mannerisms, family background, and personal hygiene and so on. There is nothing wrong in finding out how a man reacts when he is hungry, or to see how a woman looks like when she wakes up early in the morning without make-up.
This thorough knowledge leads to mutual understanding. I read an inscription somewhere: “I married her because we have so many faults in common.” This is what it means to know someone and exercise mutual understanding. Three women were expressing their concerns about their husbands: the first, whose husband was a football player said, I hate when my husband calls leftovers replays. The second, whose husband was a TV executive said, my husband refers to them as reruns. The third, whose husband was a mortician, said to her friends, “be grateful”, my husband calls them remains. She went on to say, ‘suffices to know and understand your husband’s background and career.’
Once we know and understand each other well, we can easily dialogue on areas where there is need for growth.
Over and above all this, we must put on love, care and concern for one another. It was Theodore Roosevelt, one time US president, who said “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. Care and concern keep our relationships alive. At the level of families, spouses should show care and concern for each other, especially in times of sickness. Children too should love and care for one another.
In school, teachers are called to be good shepherds by their love and care for students, especially the weaker ones. Consider your job as a calling to bring out the best in your students.
Physicians, nurses, care-givers all have the God-given opportunity to live out the example of the good shepherd by their love and care for the sick. Our tender loving care can bring healing more than any amount of medication.
All of us in leadership positions are called to be good shepherds by treating our subordinates with love, care, and respect, even when they seem not to meet our expectations. The dignity of the human person does not depend on his ability to work. Sometimes we treat employees and co-workers like nonentities if to our estimation, they are not efficient or productive.
Finally, let us trust in Christ our Good Shepherd, and after his example, strive to grow in our relationships by giving up selfish and childish tendencies. Rather, let the spirit of the good shepherd rekindle our relationships with love, care, self-sacrifice and mutual understanding.