Jesus Christ Our Shepherd
This Sunday is traditionally called Good Shepherd Sunday. It is a day we pay special attention to the kind of relationship our Lord has with us, and wants to continue to have with us. And there is no better way to describe this intimate relationship He has with us than through the image of the shepherd and his flock. He clearly states that He is the Good Shepherd and not just a good shepherd. He is the only Good Shepherd, who takes care of His sheep (ourselves); and He loves, protects and cares for us so jealously that He gave His life for us.
The image of the Shepherd is a familiar one in the bible. The Old Testament describes Yahweh as the shepherd of his people, Israel. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! (Psalm 80:1) We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3). In Ezekiel 34, God was angry with the shepherds of Israel: “woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves. Should not the shepherds feed the flock? You have not taken care of the flock” (vs.1-8). Because of this, Yahweh said: “I myself will care for my sheep and watch over them. As the shepherd looks after his flock when he finds them scattered, so will I watch over my sheep and gather them” (v. 12). The prophets therefore foretold that the Messiah would be the Good Shepherd of God’s people: “He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms” (Isaiah 40:11). Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd who will risk his life to seek out and save the stray sheep (Matthew 18:12, Luke 15:4); as the Good Shepherd who came to serve and not to be served. He is the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (1 Peter 2:25).
This Sunday reminds us of the intimate relationship between us and God in Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord. He watches over us; He feeds us spiritually and physically, and protects us from danger, especially from the ones we inflict on ourselves. As our Good Shepherd, He keeps an eye on our coming and going (Ps. 120.8); leads us out safely and brings us back safely, too (Numb. 27.17). But this kind of relationship with our God is possible if we, like the flock, submit our lives in obedience to His direction.
The image of the Good Shepherd also reflects the life and ministry of parents and pastors. Parents give their all to their kids and worry about them all the time. They work hard to provide for their children and are willing to risk anything to make their children stand well in life. It is a duty of love born out of a close relationship between parents and their children. When both parents and children willingly enter into this life-giving relationship, life blossoms and the heart sings in joy and confidence, just as when we nurture our relationship with Our Lord. The same is true if the contrary is the case: when either parents or children refuse to enter into this reciprocal love of mutual self-giving for each other, the heart aches in pain! When any parent as the shepherd of their home becomes irresponsible and leaves or abandons the children, he or she creates a trail of unnecessary pain and suffering. The same is true of the relationship between a pastor and his parishioners. The pastor, as the shepherd of his children – the parishioners – loves them and reaches out to each one of them in love and respect. It is my duty as your pastor to care for each of you: babies, children, teenagers, young adults, middle-aged, and our elders. Each one is important. May we learn to listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, Our Good Shepherd, and also enter into a true relationship with our family members as well as the members of our parish family. Amen
~ Fr. Cornelius Okeke