Updated: May 7
(Begin by reading the Gospel. Sometimes it is good to have someone read it to you. It is good to hear the Word of God.)
Every year on the fourth Sunday of Easter, we celebrate Jesus the Good Shepherd. Many of us have listened to this parable for years. We know that Jesus says, "I AM the Good Shepherd." In the Gospel for this Sunday, we hear a short form of the parable, only four short verses. Jesus proclaims the parable from the steps of the Temple—the Temple that belongs to God. He stands there, looking out at all the people who have followed him to Jerusalem, all the way to the Temple. Why do they follow him?
My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me.
Something about his voice causes the sheep to follow. They have followed him to Jerusalem, but where will he lead them next? Where are they going?
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.
Jesus says that he gives the sheep eternal life, life that will never end in death. No one can separate his sheep from him. How can he claim this? How can he know?
What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.
What has the Father given Jesus? What has the Father given that cannot be snatched away?
Does Jesus mean eternal life, the life that he gives to the sheep? Maybe. When he proclaims these words from the steps of the Temple, though, he has not yet died and risen to eternal life.
Could Jesus mean the Kingdom of God? He knows so much about the Kingdom of God; he always speaks about it. Many of the people have followed Jesus to Jerusalem because of the way he speaks about the Kingdom.
Could Jesus mean the flock of sheep? Has God given the flock to Jesus and no one can snatch the flock away from God?
The people must wonder what Jesus means. Then, while they wonder, Jesus says the most outrageous thing ever:
The Father and I are one.
One? Who does Jesus think he is? Some of the people are outraged. There is One God. Only one.
Jesus agrees. One God.
One God with One life to give.
One God with One flock.
One God with One vision of the Kingdom.
What is that vision? St. John, who records the parable of the Good Shepherd for us, thinks about this parable for years. Just like us, he thinks and thinks and thinks about it. After many years, St. John is given a vision of the Kingdom in all its fullness. (We have to wonder, what vision will we be given after thinking about his parable for many, many years!) In our second reading this Sunday, we hear St. John's vision:
I, John, looked,
and there was a great multitude that no one could count,
from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages,
standing...before the throne of God,
worshipping him day and night within his temple
Every nation, all peoples, a great multitude.
All the sheep together.
They have followed him to the Temple. This is where he has always been leading them—to the throne of God.
In this vision, we hear what the Kingdom will be like:
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
No more hunger, no more thirst, no more tears. The shepherd gives them everything they need—eternal life, never to be snatched away. Parousia.
At the centre of the throne of God is their shepherd. "The Father and I are One," says Jesus. St. John sees this Oneness in his vision. The sheep hear the promise in his voice. They fall in love with the vision.
They fall in love with the Kingdom.
They fall in love with the shepherd who gives them everything they need.
What can we tell people who want what the sheep of the Good Shepherd have?
Listen to his voice.
Fall in love.