We call this Sunday after Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday. Indeed, Christ is the Good Shepherd. And that image of Him as such has inspired the most beautiful images and songs, poems and painting.
But we should be careful not to stop there. Someone might appear good, or brings us comfort and calms our fears. But that does not necessarily mean that we open our mouths and allow ourselves to be fed. The reason we sin is because it tries to exploit our natural vulnerabilities. The our senses fool us into thinking that the sin is good, actually good to do, or will have good results.
Even throughout the political history of Israel, many individuals, from kings to politicians, from military commanders to revolutionaries, had at various times proclaimed themselves as good shepherds who were to lead their people to freedom. Christ calls them thieves and robbers! Instead of feeding the flock with true food, they themselves feed off the fears and vulnerabilities of others.
This happens to us too, when we idealize someone or something, even to the point of ignoring the faults. When the reality hits that we made a terrible investment, that you were deceived, or betrayed by someone close, our love can easily turn into hatred. Oftentimes, we have only ourselves to blame, and it takes humility to even forgive oneself for our own stupidity.
So it’s not just about trying to be good or being attracted to what we perceive as good. Christ calls us to go deeper. He puts Himself forward, not simply as the Good Shepherd. He goes further. He presents Himself as the “True Shepherd”.
Anyone can present themselves as a “good shepherd”. But Christ is only the Good Shepherd because He alone is the True Shepherd. How can you tell? Listen to His voice.
Christ’s voice not only speaks the truth, but His voice, even if we do not fully understand it with our minds, His voice reaches into the heart and soul. And we know, in our heart of hearts that we must follow Him, trust Him and love Him, obey Him, even when we know we are still weak and vulnerable, still hungry and afraid. The True Shepherd will always keep His promises, and will even lay down His life, because He is a man of His Word.
And what is His Promise and His Word to us? “I have come that you may have life, and life abundantly”. Here in this Eucharist, we call out to God who hears us, hears you and me crying out from the depth of our hearts and souls, NOT, “Feed me so I can feel good”. Instead our prayer should be “Feed me with everlasting life so I can authentically know you and love you more and more”.
He responds to us most intimately through the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Mass, not only as a Good Shepherd who feeds us, but the True Shepherd who dares to nourish us with His own authentic Body and Blood, and at what cost? Does He feel like a Good Shepherd doing so, or does He know Himself as an authentic Shepherd because He sacrifices Himself for the one He loves, even if it is not returned or even appreciated.
When we were children, we never truly understood the sacrifices our parents made for us, the pain and suffering that often endured while we as children complained that we didn’t get what we deserved.
We don’t deserve good things. We deserve the truth. The truth is that you are worth dying for, and the Good Shepherd has done just so, because He is true to His name. All we can do is respond to Christ is gratitude and Thanksgiving. We do so now.
Because the Lord alone is my shepherd, there is nothing else I shall want, no-one else who hears me when I call, knows where I am, what I need, where I belong." Call to Him and you will be saved!