Today is Good Shepherd Sunday! In today’s gospel, Jesus said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture…. I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:9-10) Isn’t this amazingly beautiful? But how do we capture the Shepherding of Christ in our life?
In his book 'The Holy Land', John Kelman describes a field pen. It consists of a circular stone wall about four feet high with an opening in it. Kelman says that one day a Holy land tourist saw a field pen near Hebron. He asked a shepherd sitting nearby, "Where's the gate for your pen?" The shepherd said, "I am the gate." The shepherd then told the tourist how he herded his flock into the pen each night and then lay down across the entrance. No sheep could leave the pen and no wild animal could enter it, without stepping over his body. (Anon)
Christ, as our Good Shepherd, is our gate for abundant life, that is, eternity! If we enter through the Shepherding of Christ, He is our salvation!
The first person who encountered this Shepherding of our Lord is Peter, the first pope of the Catholic Church. In the First Reading, Peter proclaimed Christ in these words: “Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36) Peter was “cut to the heart” of what Jesus did to him. Remember, Peter denied Jesus three times when the Lord went through pain, suffering, and ultimately death. But even with his human weakness, Christ made Peter strong. He was converted and convicted to the amazing Shepherding of the Lord.
As the leader, Peter’s proclamation of Christ triggered ‘cutting to the heart’ experience of many, and as the Acts of the Apostles tells us, many repented and received baptism and the Holy Spirit. “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.” (Acts 2:40) In one day, Peter’s preaching converted three thousand. It was the record-setting story of Christian expansion narrated in the Acts of the Apostles.
Christ, as our Good Shepherd, cares for us, particularly our life as God’s people. He wants us to follow His lead to the true and genuine green pasture – not the green dollar, but the path to our rightful place in heaven.
I fully understand our desire for green dollars and our hunger for material things, but COVID-19 has given us a lesson. It does not discriminate – rich or poor, powerful or powerless, beautiful or ugly, famous or infamous, we are all weak and in need of God. In just a matter of weeks, our economy went crushing down. That is the reality of human frailty and weakness when we rely on material things. Hopefully, we see God as the only constant, permanent and the only power to save us!
Finally, the “cut to the heart” experience prompted the people to ask Peter and the other apostles, “What are we to do, my brothers?” Isn’t this our question, as well, right now? What are we to do? But is it because we are “cut to the heart” or afraid of COVID-19? Either way, Peter told them: Repent! And, in the Second Reading, Peter added: “Beloved: If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.” (1 Peter 2:20-21)
A soldier dying on a Korean battlefield asked for a priest. The Medic could not find one. A wounded man lying nearby heard the request and said, “I am a priest.” The Medic turned to the speaker and saw his condition, which was as bad as that of the other. “It will kill you if you move,” he warned. But the wounded chaplain replied. “The life of a man’s soul is worth more than a few hours of my life.” He then crawled to the dying soldier, heard his confession, gave him absolution and the two died hand in hand.