May 7, 2017 — Fourth Sunday of Easter
Shepherds and sheep were so much a part of life for Jesus and those from Galilee. Galilee was, after all, largely a rural area and raising sheep and sheepherding was an intricate part of their lives. That is why the image of a shepherd with his sheep was so often used during biblical times. It was a connection with which people could identify.
It is equally important for us today to understand this important cultural connection for them. Shepherding was all about feeding the lambs and the sheep (recall that Jesus tells Peter “Feed my sheep.”), bringing them to good pasture lands and water (“The Lord is my shepherd…He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters; he restores my soul.”); going after lost lambs (“Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?”); and protects the sheep in the field and the fold (“The watchman opens the gate, and the sheep listen to his voice.”).
Our Gospel reading today comes from St. John 10: 1-10. In St. John 10: 11, the next verse, Christ declares “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” As Catholics and Christians, we, too, are called to be Good Shepherds to all those with whom we come in contact. It may be from another culture than ours, but we should understand full well the implications of that.