HOMILY FOR THE FOURTH (4th) SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A
HOMILY THEME: THE GOOD SHEPHERD
By: Fr. Johnbosco Obika Jesus
The Paradigm of a Good Shepherd The fourth Sunday of Easter is called the Good Shepherd Sunday. Today, we shall center our reflection on the image of Jesus as the good shepherd who is to be emulated.
The motif of the shepherd is seen all over the scripture. In the Old Testament, God is seen as the shepherd who takes care of his flock. For Isaiah, “He is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them against His breast and leading the mother ewes to their rest.” (Is. 40:11). In Psalm 23, David paints a perfect picture of God as a good shepherd who cares, nurtures and protects his sheep. The Jews had a dream of a good shepherd who is to come. The prophecies of this good shepherd was fulfilled in Jesus who called himself the good shepherd.
Those who were given special tasks by God in the Bible were literally shepherds. This prepared them for the great mission. In Genesis 30, Jacob tended the flock of Laban and was an expert at that. In Exodus 3:1, Moses shepherded the flock of Jethro his father in-law and the priest of Midian before he was called by God. In 1st Samuel 17:34, David was a shepherd who defended his flock against the attack of wild beasts. He was called to be anointed king of Israel from the fields where he was tending his flock. God saw some special characteristics in shepherds that made him to choose them to lead his people. These qualities are found in fullness in the person of Jesus Christ.
One of these characteristics is sacrificial love. A good shepherd fights for his sheep to the point of loosing his life. Jesus loves his sheep to the point of giving his life for them. In the gospel of today he testifies that he knows his sheep. To love is to know. There is no love without knowledge. This is unlike hirelings and surrogates who work only for their wages. They cannot defend their flock against attacks but take to their heals when there is danger. Our society is bleeding today because some of us who are political leaders, church leaders, teachers, parents, doctors, nurses, lecturers, public servants, artisans, employers and employees, caregivers work only for material reward and not for the well-being of those placed under our care.
Another point that distinguishes Jesus as the good shepherd is his humility, patience and tolerance. St. Peter tells us in the second reading of today that Jesus suffered for us and has left an example for us to follow. He was insulted but he did not retaliate but took it all in humility and patience. When he suffered, he did not threaten in return but endured everything till the end. We must possess these Christlike qualities in order to save the flock entrusted to our care. A story goes about a king who has led his kingdom in the path of peace and prosperity for many decades. His health was going down, he knew he had not much time on earth. Though he was fulfilled as a king, but he had problem with would succeed him and continue his good legacies. He had two son whom he decided to give a task without disclosing his intention. He gave each a hundred sheep to go out to the hills and tend for a year. The two sons set out. The eldest, on the one hand, was rude, harsh, impatient and intolerant. He handled his flock roughly beating them with his shepherd’s rod. When he was hungry, he slaughtered some of them and ate. He abandoned the sick and weak ones by the roadside to die. The younger son, on the other hand, was just the opposite of his elder brother. He was careful with his flock. He took care for the weak ones and was very patient with them. He trekked miles away in search of greener pastures for his flock. At the end, the eldest son came back with only one sick sheep with wounds all over the body. But the younger one came back with an uncountable number of healthy sheep. The king declared his last son his successor because he who cannot tend a flock with humility, patience and endurance cannot lead his people. We are all shepherds but are we all good shepherds? Priests, doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, engineers, parents, everyone, are all shepherds in their own fields. We must strive to be good shepherds because we are responsible for the flock under our care. God rebuked the shepherds of Israel for their carelessness in Jeremiah 23:1: “Doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of my pasture to be destroyed and scattered.” Also in Ezekiel 34: 2: “Trouble for the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves!” Today, also pray for vocations. That God will raise from among us true shepherds who will lead his flock to the promised land. We pray for those who are already in positions of religious and civil leadership that they may work selflessly for the good of those placed under their care.