Reflection: Fourth Sunday of Easter

Chinese Mass:Every Sunday 2:15 p.m.

Our Lady of the Assumption RC Church, Assumption Priory, Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green E2 9PB (map)

After Mass you are welcome to join the community for a tea gathering

Bible study/sharing every Saturday (2:00-4:00 p.m.) at Notre Dame De France Church, 5 Leicester Place WC2H 7BX (near See Woo Chinese Supermarket, Leicester Square tube station)

Talk and discussion meeting First Monday of every month (4:00-6:00 p.m.) at Notre Dame De France Church

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[1st Reading – Acts 2:14, 36-41; Ps.22; 2nd Reading – 1Pt.2:20-25; Gospel – Jn.10:1-10]

Quite often when we read the gospels, we are told that Jesus’ listeners failed to understand what he was trying to say.  Today’s gospel is presenting us with one of these instances.  Jesus is teaching with a parable and he also had to explain it to them because they failed to understand it.  On second reading of today’s gospel, most probably, we too would find ourselves in the same situation as Jesus’ listeners and fail to understand his teaching.

Jesus opens his teaching speaking about the person who enters near the sheep.  He cares so much for his sheep that he is preoccupied and makes it a point to mention that the one who goes near Jesus’ sheep must pass through the Gate.  Jesus calls the one who enters in some other way and not through the gate, a thief and a brigand.  Jesus says that the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in; the sheep hear his voice; he calls his own sheep one by one and leads them out… Jesus says, that, once they are out, the shepherd goes ahead of them and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.  Jesus also says that they never follow a stranger, but run away from the stranger, because they do not recognise his voice.

When he finished speaking, Jesus had to explain the parable… and thank God that he did!  Jesus says that he is the gate of the sheepfold.  So, one asks: if Jesus is the gate through which those who follow him pass freely to find green pastures, than, he is not the shepherd that he has spoken about a few verses above.  He can only be either the gate or the shepherd.  If he is the gate, the shepherd must be someone else, someone who is neither a thief nor a brigand…, therefore someone who has to pass through Jesus, through the gate, to reach the sheep.  This person is someone whom the gatekeeper lets in, near the flock, knowing that he is not going to harm any of the sheep.  Someone whom the sheep know and therefore pay attention and listen to his voice.  Someone who knows the sheep by name and who leads them safely in and out through the gate.  This same person who is not Jesus, once he brings the flock out, he goes ahead of them and shows them the way.  He would also be followed by the sheep because they recognise and know his voice… In other words, he would be someone whom the sheep trust, who is not a stranger to the sheep because they recognise his voice and therefore know him.  So, who is this shepherd, who is not Jesus (who is the gate and the gatekeeper at the same time)?  As a matter of fact, here, Jesus makes it clear that he is not the shepherd he is speaking about in his parable because twice he says that he is the gate!

Jesus gives a hint who this person might be when he explains the parable to his listeners.  He says that anyone who enters through him will be safe, he will go freely in and out and be sure to find pasture.  Said in this way, one understands that there is only one type of ‘person’ that fits into this description.  Jesus is speaking about his disciples.  There is no person who is not a disciple of Jesus that can do these things… And if someone tries to do something similar but is not a disciple of Jesus, he is just a ‘thief’ and a ‘brigand’. The  true disciple has a healthy relationship with Jesus in such a way that he feels and is truly safe with him, is free with him and knows that God himself will provide the pasture.  Yet, this disciple who, in his time of being part of the flock and a sheep himself, has learnt to listen to the voice of Jesus when Jesus was the shepherd.  Now that Jesus has moved forward and become the gate, his disciple is to take Jesus’ place and become himself the shepherd.  It is now, therefore, the time of the disciple to become himself not only the follower of Jesus, but also a shepherd on the model of his Master.  The disciple who has become the shepherd has to create the same relationship with his sheep, as the one that he had with Jesus when he was the sheep and Jesus was the shepherd.  In other words, the disciple is to take Jesus’ place and do the same things that Jesus did, so that now it is his turn to lead the sheep in pastures provided by God.  The disciple becomes the master for other disciples but at the same time, he is still going to be a disciple of Jesus because he has to continuously pass through the gate (Jesus) to lead the sheep out into the pastures, and therefore do the Father’s will, as Jesus did!

Are we ready to follow Jesus in such a way that we too become shepherds for his sheep?

“Lord, you said that you are the gate through which the shepherd and the sheep pass to find pastures.  Help us to pass swiftly from sheep to become shepherds that are ready to lead your sheep into the pastures that the Father will provide.  Thank you Lord!”

 

Fr. Jesmond Pawley, OFM Conv.

(Permission to reproduce on this site by Fr. Jesmond, St. Patrick’s RC Church, Waterloo http://www.stpatrickwaterloo.org.uk/ )

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