Saturday, May 2, 2020

The Gate and The Shepherd: A Reflection For Good Shepherd Sunday

Wally and I were invited to share a reflection on the readings for Mass this Sunday, May 3, 2020, at From His Heart, our parish blog.

Jesus says, "I am the gate" twice in this Sunday's Mass readings.1 

But this is Good Shepherd Sunday. Why does Jesus refer to himself as "the gate" before "the shepherd"?

At that time, the corrals of shepherds at pasture with their sheep "usually consisted of a circle of rocks, with an opening at one end. The shepherd himself would serve as the gate to such sheepfolds, laying across its entrance to sleep... The shepherd himself was the door," Father Thomas Rosica explains.2

And so, Jesus is both the shepherd who guides the sheep and the gate that protects them.

Pope Benedict XVI describes Jesus as "the One who follows us even into our deserts and confusion... the One who took upon his shoulders the lost sheep, which is humanity, and carried it home."3

How is Jesus present in my desert and confusion? What hope does He bring?

We read in today's calming Responsorial Psalm, "The Lord is my shepherd," a good shepherd who brings rest, refreshment, courage, and blessing to his sheep:
"In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul" (Psalm 23). 
How can I become a sheep of the Good Shepherd? Through Jesus and the sacraments He instituted, we receive the Holy Spirit and become part of the church, as St. Peter teaches in Acts 2:
"Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit… Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day."
Yes, I received Baptism; I committed to the vows of my Baptism at Confirmation; I ask God's forgiveness directly and through Confession; I receive Jesus in Communion. Still, how can I follow Jesus more closely?

In today's Gospel reading, Jesus teaches that the sheep "follow him, because they recognize his voice" (John 10). What happens when someone hears God's voice? We read in Acts: when people recognized God's voice in the words of Peter and the apostles, "they were cut to the heart" (Acts 2). 

Is my heart soft enough to hear the Shepherd's voice? Am I listening?

These are difficult and unusual times; we've stopped our daily routines in the hope of preventing illness and protecting the vulnerable among us. Today's reading from 1 Peter reminds us that when we "suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God."

Archbishop Jose Gomez says this is what it means to be shepherds, like Jesus: 
"This is a wonderful responsibility that we all have; as much as possible, try to be 'good shepherds' for other people... beginning with those who are closest to us, in our homes, in our families, in our places of work, in our daily life."4

How can I be a good shepherd to others?

1 Mass readings, May 3, 2020.

2 Father Thomas Rosica, C.S.B. Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Easter, May 10, 2011. 

3 Pope Benedict XVI. Homily, May 7, 2006.

4 Archbishop Jose Gomez. Homily, April 21, 2013.

*Also published 04/2020 at Sacred Heart Blog

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