The true and good shepherd

This day, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, called “Good Shepherd Sunday”, invites us each year to rediscover, with ever new astonishment, how Jesus defined himself, reading it again in the light of his passion, death and resurrection. “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn 10: 11): these words are wholly fulfilled when Christ, freely obeying the will of the Father, is immolated on the Cross. The significance that he is “the good shepherd” thus becomes completely clear: he gives life, he offered his life in sacrifice for us all: for you, for you, for you, for me, for everyone! And for this reason he is the good shepherd!

Christ is the true shepherd, who fulfils the loftiest model of love for the flock: he freely lays down his own life, no one takes it from him (cf. v. 18), but he gives it for the sheep (v.17). In open opposition for false shepherds, Jesus presents himself as the one true shepherd of the people. A bad pastor thinks of himself and exploits the sheep; a good shepherd thinks of the sheep and gives himself. Unlike the mercenary, Christ the pastor is a careful guide who participates in the life of his flock, does not seek other interests, has no ambition other than guiding, feeding and protecting his sheep. All of this at the highest price, that of sacrificing his own life.

The providence of God

In the figure of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, we contemplate the providence of God, his paternal solicitude for each one of us. He does not leave us on our own! The result of this contemplation of Jesus the true and good shepherd, is the exclamation of poignant astonishment that we find in the Second Reading of the day’s Liturgy: “See what love the Father has given to us…” (1 Jn 3: 1).

It is truly a surprising and mysterious love, for by giving us Jesus as the shepherd who gives his life for us, the Father has given us all of the greatest and most precious that he could give us. It is the purest and most sublime love, for it is not motivated by necessity, is not conditioned on accounting, is not attracted by a self- interested desire for exchange. Before this love of God, we feel immense joy and we open ourselves to recognizing how much we have freely received.

But it is not enough to contemplate and give thanks. It is also necessary to follow the good shepherd. In particular, those whose mission is to be a guide in the Church-priests, bishops, popes – are called to take on not the mentality of manager but that of servant, in imitation of Jesus who, in emptying himself, saved us with His mercy.

The Road that Leads to Life
Lent & Easter with
Pope Francis

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