Sunday, April 25, 2010

Gospel for Monday, 4th Week of Easter

Optional Memorial (Canada): Our Lady of Good Counsel

From: John 10:1-10

The Good Shepherd
(Jesus said to the Pharisees,) [1] "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; [2] but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. [3] To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. [4] When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. [5] A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." [6] This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what He was saying to them.

[7] So Jesus again said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. [8] All who came before Me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. [9] I am the door; if any one enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. [10] The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."

1-18. The image of the Good Shepherd recalls a favorite theme of Old Testament prophetic literature: the chosen people is the flock, and Yahweh is their shepherd (cf. Psalm 23). Kings and priests are also described as shepherds or pastors. Jeremiah inveighs against those pastors who had let their sheep go astray and in God's name promises new pastors who will graze their flocks properly so that they will never again be harassed or anxious (cf. 23:1-6; also 2:8; 3:15; 10:21; Isaiah 40:1-11). Ezekiel reproaches pastors for their misdeeds and sloth, their greed and neglect of their responsibility: Yahweh will take the flock away from them and He Himself will look after their sheep: indeed, a unique shepherd will appear, descended from David, who will graze them and protect them (Ezekiel 34). Jesus presents Himself as this shepherd who looks after His sheep, seeks out the strays, cures the crippled and carries the weak on His shoulders (cf. Matthew 18:12-14; Luke 15:4-7), thereby fulfilling the ancient prophecies.

From earliest times, Christian art found its inspiration in this touching image of the Good Shepherd, thereby leaving us a representation of Christ's love for each of us.

In addition to the title of Good Shepherd, Christ applies to Himself the image of the door into the sheepfold of the Church. "The Church," Vatican II teaches, "is a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ (cf. John 10:1-10). It is also a flock, of which God foretold that He Himself would be the shepherd (cf. Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:11ff.), and whose sheep, although watched over by human shepherds, are nevertheless at all times led and brought to pasture by Christ Himself, the Good Shepherd and Prince of shepherds (cf. John 10:11; 1 Peter 5:4), who gave His life for His sheep (cf. John 10:11-15)" ("Lumen Gentium", 6).

1-2. The flock can be harmed in a subtle, hidden way, or in a blatant way through abuse of authority. The history of the Church shows that its enemies have used both methods: sometimes they enter the flock in a secretive way to harm it from within; sometimes they attack it from outside, openly and violently. "Who is the good shepherd? `He who enters by the door' of faithfulness to the Church's doctrine and does not act like the hireling `who sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees'; whereupon `the wolf snatches them and scatters them'" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 34).

3-5. In those times it was usual at nightfall to bring a number of flocks together into one sheepfold, where they would be kept for the night with someone acting as look-out. Then at dawn the shepherds would come back and open the sheepfold and each would call his sheep which would gather round and follow him out of the pen (they were used to his voice because he used to call them to prevent them from going astray) and he would then lead them to pasture. Our Lord uses this image--one very familiar to His listeners--to teach them a divine truth: since there are strange voices around, we need to know the voice of Christ--which is continually addressing us through the Magisterium of the Church--and to follow it, if we are to get the nourishment our soul needs. "Christ has given His Church sureness in doctrine and a fountain of grace in the Sacraments. He has arranged things so that there will always be people to guide and lead us, to remind us constantly of our way. There is an infinite treasure of knowledge available to us: the word of God kept safe by the Church, the grace of Christ administered in the Sacraments and also the witness and example of those who live by our side and have known how to build with their good lives a road of faithfulness to God" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 34).

6. Christ develops and interprets the image of the shepherd and the flock, to ensure that everyone who is well-disposed can understand His meaning. But the Jews fail to understand--as happened also when He promised the Eucharist (John 6:41-43) and spoke of the "living water" (John 7:40-43), or when He raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:45-46).

7. After describing His future Church through the image of the flock, Christ extends the simile and calls Himself the "door of the sheep". The shepherds and the sheep enter the sheepfold: both must enter through the door, which is Christ. "I", St. Augustine preached, "seeking to enter in among you, that is, into your heart, preach Christ: if I were to preach other than that, I should be trying to enter by some other way. Through Christ I enter in, not to your houses but to your hearts. Through Him I enter and you have willingly heard me speak of Him. Why? Because you are Christ's sheep and you have been purchased with Christ's blood" ("In Ioann. Evang." 47, 2-3).

8. The severe reproach Jesus levels against those who came before Him does not apply to Moses or the prophets (cf. John 5:39, 45; 8:56; 12:41), nor to the Baptist (cf. John 5:33), for they proclaimed the future Messiah and prepared the way for Him. He is referring to the false prophets and deceivers of the people, among them some teachers of the Law--blind men and blind guides (cf. Matthew 23:16-24) who block the people's way to Christ, as happened just a little before when the man born blind was cured (cf. John 9).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

No comments: