April 30, 2023 – Fourth Sunday of Easter

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Parents are the first shepherds of children at home. As shepherds, they take care of their children, and make sure that home is welcoming and nurturing. Parents secure that the basic needs of human intimacy and love, of physical, mental and spiritual aspects of children are provided. Parents lead children by example through their words and deeds.

However, what if our parents are irresponsible? When a father turns out to be alcoholic, abusive and immature or a mother turns out to be distant, self-obsessed and cruel in her words, then, it will not be surprising if children will also turn out to be like them, lost and unproductive, broken and resentful.

This can also be true in a wider picture. When our leaders, whether in our Church or State, will turn out to be unreliable, corrupt, abusive and self-absorbed, then, our community will surely be in a mess. That is why, there is really a need to learn and to practice what Jesus calls us to be.

Each of us, certainly, has the responsibility of taking care of others. As we celebrate the 4th Sunday of Easter, we also celebrate this as Good Shepherd Sunday. And so, let us take a deeper look on how God invites us today.

The image of God as a shepherd is a recurring theme in the bible. In fact, the Psalm today captures very well this image, “The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”  Jesus used this image to portray himself as the Good Shepherd who is willing to give his life for the sake of his sheep, who makes sure that the flock is taken cared and well provided. The Good Shepherd cares, protects and provides for the sheep as he himself proclaimed, “I am the gate the gate for the sheep.”

In Biblical times, sheep were very important to the lives of the people because sheep provide both food and clothing. Since the sheep needed grass, the shepherd would always look for green pastures. Because of this, the shepherd and his sheep were always on a journey in search for green pastures and water. The shepherd will provide shelter and protection for his sheep – 24/7. Consequently, the shepherd would develop a close relationship with his sheep to the point of becoming familiar to each of them, giving them names and calling them by name. The sheep in return would also become familiar with their shepherd. They would recognize his voice and follow him wherever he may lead them. In a way, trust and confidence is built up in this kind of relationship.

From this point, I would like to highlight the two relationships where we are invited to reflect and to grow and mature. First is the relationship of the Shepherd to the sheep. Second is the relationship between the sheep with their shepherd.

As persons who exercise responsibility over others God invites us to learn from the relationship the shepherd has with his sheep. The shepherd takes time to know his sheep; he spends quality time with them. The shepherd develops a rapport with his sheep allowing himself to be in the midst of his sheep. He is neither distant nor indifferent, but close and involved to every sheep. The shepherd responds to the needs of his sheep.

Thus, Jesus invites us that like him we too shall develop a consciousness of serving, of taking care of others, of becoming instruments of God’s care and compassion to His people. As parents, as leaders in our community, organization or in your field of work, or as priests and religious, we are called to learn from the Good shepherd.

And remember, this is power which is an ability to influence, to create and transform. This power is ought to be expressed through love, so that, power transforms into service and giving of oneself. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, tells us that being a person with power as an authority figure or leader is not about controlling others or manipulating others, but rather, having the capacity to serve and love without pretension, without manipulation and that does not count the cost.

The second relationship that I am emphasizing is between the sheep with their shepherd. Today, we might not like the idea of being called as sheep. Sheep are known to be stupid and submissive animals. Yet, we, human beings are cultured, intelligent, and sophisticated because of our reason. But then, do these qualities in us really make us totally different from the attitudes of the sheep?

Is it not that we also tend to be unmindful and unconscious of many things in life except for our personal desires and wants, except with those that will give us comfort and pleasure? Yes, we might tend to be more focused of the green pastures that we have at this moment but careless of what surrounds us.

We might be full of ourselves, of what others can give us and of what is only beneficial to us without minding the needs of others, meaning, egocentric. Like the sheep, we might not be conscious also of the vicious and greedy wolf in our midst and saying nothing about it. We might find ourselves dumb and stupid for not recognizing, not speaking out, and not standing up against to what is unjust and evil in our community. Like the sheep, we might also wander to the other side thinking that there is more security in vices, in depression and loneliness. So, we stray away from the comfort of our brothers and sisters.

Thus, we too need a Shepherd who will lead us, who will show us the way, to inspire us and to motivate us. We are called, then, to also develop a close relationship with our shepherd, to put our trust and confidence to our shepherd, whoever he/she may be – our parents, leaders in the community, the pastors in our parish, or teachers and mentors.

Indeed, we are called to trust and to grow in faith and confidence in Jesus, who is our Good Shepherd who laid down his life for us. Jesus is in our midst, hopefully, we too shall spend more time with him in prayer so that we become familiar of his voice and attuned to his ways. In this way, we may be able to follow him with joy and confidence. Kabay pa.


2 responses to “THE GATE OF THE SHEEP”

  1. Peace in Christ!

    Fr. Jom,

    May you find complete joy as you pursue your mission in Marawi. Thoo, it saddens me a little for I find it easy every time I do my confession with you. Yet the Lord has greater plans for you, for the people in Marawi. May the spirit fill your mission with grace and protection. We are with you in prayers, father.

    Ps. It is my earnest prayer that more of you to come to serve and save lives. Tane my ara kaw father virtual counseling or confession. Kabay pa🙏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

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