271. One Flock, One Shepherd (John 10:11-18)
“Death is certain, and life is short and vanishes like smoke. Therefore you must fix your minds on the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ who so burned with love for us that he came down from heaven to redeem us.” - St. Francis of Paola
John 10:11-18: ‘I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep. The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and the sheep do not belong to him, abandons the sheep and runs away as soon as he sees a wolf coming, and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep; this is because he is only a hired man and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. And there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and these I have to lead as well. They too will listen to my voice, and there will be only one flock, and one shepherd. The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will, and as it is in my power to lay it down, so it is in my power to take it up again; and this is the command I have been given by my Father.’
Christ the Lord Jesus Christ was sent to the Jews to be their Messiah in accordance with God’s ancient promises to his Chosen People. Yet God was not satisfied to save only one group of people – he wants his blessing to reach all nations, every corner of the earth. Christ the Savior, then, receives Lordship not only over the little flock of Israel and Judah but over all the flocks of the earth. In him, we all come under one Lordship, that of the Good Shepherd, who is the one pastor of the one flock. The effect of the wolf (the devil) is to catch and scatter the sheep; Christ frees and unites us. And even if the wolf attacks the shepherd himself, as he will during Christ’s Passion, the shepherd has the power both to lay down and raise up his life, so the one flock will never perish, never be scattered, never be captured. Because Christ the Good Shepherd is our Lord, the Church (the one flock) will never fail. Our membership in this flock is perhaps the greatest gift we have received from the Lord after the gift of life itself. Unfortunately, we often take them both for granted.
This is one of the most compelling reasons behind the Church’s missionary mandate. We are all called to spread the Good News of Christ, to “make disciples of all nations,” bringing everyone into this one flock. Only the Catholic Church has the divine guarantee that it will never fail (never be scattered by wolves). Other churches and other religions may have sincere believers and parts of the truth, but only Christ’s one flock gathered around his vicar’s staff is guaranteed never to fail. Building the Kingdom of the Lord, then, means building up his Church.
Christ the Teacher The fall of Adam and Eve came about as a result of their lack of trust in God. Jesus Christ came to win back that trust. By giving up his own life to atone for our sins, he showed that the Father is worthy of our trust, that he will forgive us, protect us, and lead us to rich pastures. God will never abandon us in our need – never. The Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ are his proof. Though the wolf (the devil) attacked and scattered Christ’s disciples on that first Good Friday, Christ did not flee; he gave up his own life, freely suffering what in truth we, because of our sins, deserved to suffer and freely obeying with the total obedience that Adam and Eve had lacked. Because of his docility in embracing the Father’s will, the Father rewarded him by raising him from the dead. Christ was faithful to his mission, even knowing what it was going to cost him. That mission consists in saving us from sin and estrangement from God. He is the Good Shepherd, the one we can trust, the one who cares more about our lives than we do ourselves, the Lord who came not be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for ours.
Note how this mission of carrying out the Father’s plan, of obeying the Father’s will, consumes Jesus and constitutes in his mind the entire meaning of his life: “The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again… and this is the command I have been given by my Father.” This is how Christ, the perfect man, lived out his human existence, focusing wholly on the Father’s will, being passionately faithful to his sonship. To discover and fulfill our own identity as children of God, and thus experience life as he created us to live it¬ – both now and in eternity – Jesus invites us to do the same: “The sheep follow, because they know his voice” (John 10:4).
Christ the Friend Jesus: I know my own and my own know me. When I created you, I built two needs into your soul: the need to love and the need to be loved. If you don’t learn to love, you will never flourish, and if you don’t discover that you are loved, you will never learn to love. Love is always a two-way street – an exchange, an embrace. It’s much harder for you to let yourself be loved than it is to love, because to be loved, you have to let yourself be known. You cannot be loved fully by someone who doesn’t know you fully. This is why every earthly love is precarious; you never know if the person who loves you will continue to do so when they know you better.
I know you through and through, completely, even better than you know yourself. I know all the things you keep hidden from others, all the things about you that you barely understand yourself. I know you so thoroughly because I gave you life, I brought you into existence, and I have been holding you and sustaining you every instant of your life. I know you uniquely and totally, so I can love you as no one else can. You never have to worry about my love waning, because I have already shown you, while you were still a sinner, still a rebel, that my love endures to the end, even to death on a cross. You have nothing left to fear. Nothing is hidden from me, and yet I still love you without an ounce of ambiguity or reluctance. I know you, and now you know me. I love you, so come now and love me…
Christ in My Life How can I thank you for bringing me into your flock and saving me from so many dangers? You have called out to me, and you have given me ears to hear your voice. Never let me be separated from you, Lord. Only you love me enough to lay down your life for my sake. Teach me to be worthy of your love. Teach me to be docile, to stay at your side no matter what…
I am so used to thinking about your sacrificial love. I look at crucifixes all the time. But I know that I haven’t plumbed the depths of this lesson. You gave your life because you loved me. How can I discover the full import of that truth? I think it’s only by following in your footsteps. Only by giving my own life for your Kingdom, by sacrificing myself for the good of my neighbor and those around me…
How can I love you, Lord? Love wants to give, but what can I give you that you don’t already have? I know the answer, Lord. I can love you by loving those you put into my life. Every one of them. You love them, and so you are within them, and when I love them, I am loving you. May our wills become one…
PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.
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