Millions of doubts inevitably arise every time I approach religious themes, and among them I want to pick one randomly, perhaps not even the most important.
It has always bewildered me the fact of being proclaimed brother of Jesus and coheir of God, and at the same time a sheep from the Good Shepherd’s flock.
The only experience I have of brothers and shepherds is, obviously, the human one according to which, a man can be a man’s brother whereas a sheep cannot be a shepherd’s sister.
Among other things , brotherhood is an equal relationship, whereas the shepherd-flock relationship is absolutely subordinate. The shepherd looks after his flock because he derives wool, milk and meat from them . The shepherd exploits the animal he owns, all the while the sheep is helpless and dependent on the shepherd .
At this point, it seems to me that the Christ-Shepherd simile ought to be absolutely cleared from the real aspects that are found in human experience.
So why use such a comparison which, if taken in its real meaning, does not represent at all what is conveyed to us by the interpretation of the Church?
Thank you so much should you clarify the first of my billions of doubts …
The Priest’s answer
1. the very first of your billions of doubts becomes clear if you are patient enough to take the Holy Scriptures in your hands.
Indeed it’s true that the shepherds of this world look after their sheep for their own specific gain.
But Jesus made this simile to say: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them; because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd, I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep ”(Jn 10: 11-15).
I believe this clears up everything.
2. Yet, it is worth dwelling on these words of the Lord , because they are full of meaning.
The first one: in the Old Testament, God had already called the people of Israel a “flock”. This is how He speaks about the leaders of the people: “Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep?
You have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings, but the sheep you have not pastured”. (Ez 34,2-3).
3. Then He refers to Israel as of His flock: “Thus says the Lord GOD: I swear I am coming against these shepherds. I will claim my sheep from them and put a stop to their shepherding my sheep so that they may no longer pasture themselves. I will save my sheep, that they may no longer be food for their mouths”.(Ez 34,10).
And here is how the Lord pastures His flock: “In good pastures will I pasture them, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing ground. There they shall lie down on good grazing ground, and in rich pastures shall they be pastured on the mountains of Israel.
I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD”.(Ez 34: 14-15).
Here are all the promises that the Messiah makes for His people.
But the most extraordinary statement is this: Jesus by presenting Himself as the Good Shepherd also claims to be the Messiah.
4. The Good Shepherd lays down His life: it is the price of redemption for His sheep, for which He voluntarily endures every suffering and humiliation.
5. “I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep “.
In the language of the Bible “I know” also means “I love”.
Therefore Jesus loves His sheep.
He does not love them as the shepherds of this world love them, driven by their personal gain, instead He loves them as the Father loves Him , that is, to stay always together with Him .
There you have the rich pastures and the fertile grazing lands.
6. The Lord also says : “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.
The Father and I are one”. (Jn 10: 27-30).
This is how He loves us: I give them eternal life. The Eternal life is God, it is Jesus Christ.
And, if they reciprocate His love , the Lord guarantees that no one, neither men nor the devil, will snatch them out of His hand, unless one withdraws himself from the love of the Lord.
I wish you to be among those who cannot be snatched out of the love of the Lord, I assure you of my prayers and I bless you.
Translated by Riccardo Mugnaini