HOMILY FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR B. GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY
HOMILY THEME: THE BLEEDING SHEPHERD
BY: Fr. Johnbosco Obika
1st John 3:1-2
The fourth Sunday of Easter is called the Good Shepherd Sunday. Today, we shall center our reflection on Jesus as the good shepherd and what leaders must learn from him.
The image, 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. In psalm 80:1 he is called the shepherd of Israel who leads Joseph’s flock. Psalm 100:3 reiterates that we are his people and the flock of his pasture. In the Old Testament, the leaders are seen as shepherds. However, the Jews had a dream of a good shepherd who is to come. This was foretold by the prophets.
In gospel of today Jesus proclaims “I am the good shepherd”. This is one of his “I am” sayings as we have in the gospel of John (like “I am the true vine”, “I am the way… “, “I am the bread of life”, “I am the living water”, etc). Recall that God introduced himself to Moses as “I am” (Ex. 3:14). So Jesus by using this prefix reveals himself as the true identity of God and the fulfilment of the prophecies of the good shepherd.
Those who were given special leadership tasks by God in the Bible were literally shepherds. This prepared them for the great mission. In Genesis 30, Jacob as the father of the 12 tribes of Israel tended the flock of Laban. 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, the kind of love that took Jesus to the cross where he bled and died for his flock. 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. He knows when they are hungry and thirsty. He knows when they are weak and wounded. To love is to know. There is no love without knowledge. 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. We need a total rethink on the meaning of leadership.
Another point that distinguishes Jesus as the good shepherd is his humility, patience and tolerance. There is this inspiring story of a king who led his kingdom in the path of peace and prosperity for many decades. The wealth of his kingdom was going high but 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 who to succeed him and continue his legacy. 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 cared for the weak ones and was very patient with the disobedient. 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, bleeding profusely. But the younger one came back with multiple healthy sheep. The king declared his last son his successor because he who cannot tend a flock with humility, patience and tolerance cannot lead his people and continue his legacy. Are we learning from the story? A good shepherd is one who bleeds for his sheep not one who makes his flock to bleed.
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. Are we ready to bleed for our flock? Our ready to take their bullets and and risk our safety? We must strive to be good shepherds because we are responsible for the flock under our care and will account for them. God rebuked the bad 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, we 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.
HAPPY GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY. Fr. Johnbosco loves you