I would like to thank those of you who expressed your condolences and assurances of prayer for my grandmother and family, it is truly appreciated. I count it my great honor and privilege to to have been able to give her, my own grand- mother, the last sacraments and to offer her Funeral Mass. It wasn’t easy. But I know that it was Christ Our Good Shepherd, working through the hands of His priest, that was truly bestowing grace upon her, and who was with her in her final moments to lead her to the verdant pastures and restful waters of His Kingdom. Indeed all of us who entrust ourselves to Jesus Christ as our Good Shepherd can say with true Faith: “Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side” (Psalm 23).
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. Our gospel is from John 10:1-10. Our Lord is describing the shepherd as one who calls his sheep and leads his sheep. He describes how the sheep follow the shepherd because they recognize, or know, his voice. Yet, our gospel reading ends on verse 10, one verse before his great proclamation “I am the Good Shepherd.” The Lord had many “I am” proclamations. So this year we do not hear him say “I am the good shepherd.”
Rather the only “I am” proclamation from Jesus in this gospel is “I am the gate.” Referring to the entrance to a sheepfold. Yet we do not call it “Good Gate Sun- day!” So which is it? Is he the gate or shepherd?
Christ is both the shepherd and the gate. While shepherds were guarding their sheep, they would either corral their sheep into a cave or create small pens, or enclosures, using branches, thorn bushes, rocks, mud, or whatever they could find. In either case, a cave or an enclosure, there was an opening to let the sheep pass in and out. At night, in order to ensure the safety of his flock, the shepherd would lie down across that opening and became himself the “gate.” Nothing, or no one, got in or out without going through the shepherd. The shepherd is essentially saying that the wolf, the fox, or the thief would only get to the flock “over my dead body!”
Our responsorial psalm is one of the most beloved: “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.” In verse 4, it mentions the “rod and staff” of the shepherd. Those instruments were tremendously important to the shepherd. “The rod was used to defend the shepherd and his flock from wild animals or snakes while also used to discipline the sheep when necessary. The staff of- fered support, allowing the sheered to lean on it when he was tired and, because of its shape with a crook at the end, also served as a way for the shepherd to draw sheep near to him “ (Lifeteen Commentary).
In our first reading, Peter no longer feared preaching because the Lord was his true shepherd, thus Peter could be the shepherd (pastor) to the Church. A good lesson for us priests.
In the second reading we are reminded that Christ did indeed lay down His life, because we, His flock, had gone astray.
The Lord Jesus is our Good Shepherd, and He is the Gate. Since we are the sheep and Christ is the Good Shepherd, there’s no better place to be than in His fold.
Entrust yourself and your families into the strong and mighty arms of your Good Shepherd, listen to His voice when you become frantic, or fearful in our current crisis. Let his precious crown of thorns be the protective ring, or corral, around your families when assaulted by temptation and evil, He will place Himself at the entrance and be your gate.
God bless you all,
Father Robert Letona