4th Sunday of Easter/Good Shepherd Sunday/Year A, John 10:1-10
Pastor is a Latin word, which means shepherd, and Bonus Pastor is Good Shepherd. A shepherd is one who cares, guides, teaches and guards his flock. Jesus is the model of all shepherds who are engaged in pastoral ministry. At the completion of His earthly ministry, He entrusted his followers to the care of His Apostles. Today, there is a short supply of genuine good shepherds who are completely devoted to feeding and caring for the sheep. We see so many nominal pastors, and only a few real pastors (shepherds).
Jesus speaks about the qualities of shepherds in the 10th chapter of John’s Gospel, and there we find a fusion of two parables (John 10:1-10). The first section speaks about ‘Sheep Thieves’ and the second section deals with a ‘Good Shepherd’ who establishes loving intimacy with the sheep. Thus, this Gospel provides two windows through which we can see what a counterfeit shepherd looks like, and the portrait of a genuine shepherd.
In brief, let us examine the characteristics of true and false shepherds, and why some sheep easily fall into the hands of some false shepherds.
True and Good Shepherds have the following characteristics:
• Their words are spirit and life, and so the sheep listen to them.
They command respect, rather than demand respect from their flock.
• They know their flock by name and understand the uniqueness of each one.
• They lead their flock into greener pastures. They lead their sheep out from darkness to light, from ignorance to enlightenment, from despair to hope. In short, true shepherds seek for abundant life for their sheep.
• They are present with their sheep in good and bad times, in daytime and at nighttime, in sickness and health, from cradle until they are fully-grown.
• They look up to Jesus as a model who laid down His life to seek out and save the stray sheep. (Matthew 18:12, Luke 15:4)
• The good shepherd is a dedicated guardian of the salvation of souls. (1 Peter 2:25)
He acts like Jesus, Who says, “I am the gate”; true shepherds lie across the gate to prevent intruders and wolves from entering. In the morning, each sheep is able to recognize the voice of their shepherd calling them. Therefore, like Christ, the true shepherd is the door through which we become members of the flock, and he is also the door through whom we have access to the sheep (ordination).
False Shepherds, on the contrary, inflict injuries and death on their flock, as the following passages suggest: (Jeremiah 23:1-6; Ezekiel 34:1-6; Zechariah 11:4-11)
Jeremiah begins his 23rd chapter by saying: “Woe to the shepherds that destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture” (Jer. 23:1) and Ezekiel begins his 34th chapter with a prophecy against men of God (shepherds) who “eat the fat of their sheep and cloth themselves with the wool, and fail to feed the sheep.” (Ezekiel 34:3)
False shepherds have the following characteristics:
• They specialize in stealing other people’s flocks.
• They put their personal interest above the salvation of souls.
• Greedy and continue to fleece their sheep without feeding them.
• They prefer to dominate and oppress instead of leading the flock.
• They act as hired servants who are unwilling to make extra sacrifices for the welfare of the sheep.
Usually, the sheep listen to the voice of the shepherd. Sometimes, they get confused and fall into the hands of strange and dubious shepherds, especially when:
• They are not fed well by the shepherd to whom they are entrusted.
That is when they lack a spiritual balanced diet.
• They are sick and are desperately searching for healing.
• They are neglected – people go astray when they feel unloved and when they do not receive tender loving care.
• They are charmed, hypnotized, exploited and manipulated by ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing.
• They are swept over their feet by eloquent, but dangerous philosophies, theologies and doctrines.
The fourth Sunday of Easter is normally called Vocation Sunday. It is a day to pray for more labourers in the vineyard; it is a day to pray to God to raise good shepherds who will carry on with the mission of evangelization. The harvest is rich, but the labourers are few. There are many who have answered the call, but only a few are laboring tirelessly.