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Under the Shepherd’s Care
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. A 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. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, open my ears of faith to hear your voice as the Good Shepherd who calls and protects me.
- Jesus Offers to Help: Sheep are helpless creatures. They can’t protect themselves, they don’t have good ways of fighting off predators, they can’t run very fast, and they don’t last very long against a lone wolf or coyote. They rely totally on their shepherd for survival. We are like these sheep, and Jesus offers to be our shepherd. Our shepherd steps in to fight off our predators. Our shepherd is always nearby, so we don’t have to worry about anything. Because of our shepherd, we know our future is guaranteed. He promises eternal life. Do we live each day under our Shepherd’s care, or do we prefer to go it alone?
- The Shepherd Pledges His Life: Every shepherd risks his life to protect the sheep, to give them what they need, and Jesus did this for us. We are helpless and often face dangers that can severely wound us spiritually, psychologically, and even physically. Jesus put his life on the line to protect us. Jesus accepted the death on the cross that my sins deserved. Am I willing to trust him and follow him, realizing how much he loves me? What else would he need to do for me to gain my trust?
- No One Else: Jesus loves the Father so much that he laid down his life in obedience to him. Of his own free will, in his own power, Jesus accepted the cross so that we may live with him eternally. “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.” In this Easter season, we ponder Jesus’s death and Resurrection. The depth of his sacrifice makes much more sense to us if we consider the meaning of eternity for our soul and the souls of those we love. Jesus willingly died for you and for me. If there were no one else alive but you, he would still have made the sacrifice. “Nowhere other than looking at himself in the mirror of the cross can man better understand how much he is worth” (St. Anthony of Padua).
Conversing with Christ: Lord, I am a clumsy, awkward, needy sheep. Fortunately, you are my Good Shepherd. Thank you for laying down your life for me. Help me to more profoundly appreciate the sacrifice you made for me and to value souls as you do.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will stop every few hours to say a short prayer asking for your help and inspiration in all my undertakings so that I will remain close to you all day.
For Further Reflection: The Shadow of His Wings: The True Story of Fr. Gereon Goldmann, OFM by Fr. Gereon Goldmann, OFM.
Father James Swanson, LC, is from Miles City, Montana, joined the Legionaries of Christ in 1983, and currently works in Atlanta, Georgia. He enjoys books, craft beers, and extreme birding.