The Security of Knowing The Good Shepherd
Today’s Gospel (JN 10: 27-30) gives us some expressions spoken by Jesus during the feast of the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem, which was celebrated at the end of December. He is right in the temple area, and perhaps that enclosed sacred space suggests the image of the sheepfold and the shepherd. Jesus presents himself as “the Good Shepherd” and 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.”(vv. 27-28). These words help us to understand that no one can be said to be a follower of Jesus, if one does not listen to His voice. And this “listening” should not be understood in a superficial, but in a very involved, way, as to make possible a true mutual understanding, which can come from a generous following, expressed in the words “and they follow me” (v. 27). It is not only a listening ear, but a listening of the heart!
Therefore, the image of the shepherd and the sheep indicates the close relationship that Jesus wants to establish with each of us. He is our guide, our teacher, our friend, our model, but above all, He is our Savior. In fact, the next sentence of the Gospel says: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.” (v. 28). Who can speak like that? Only Jesus, because the “hand” of Jesus is one with the “hand” of the Father, and the Father is “greater than all” (v. 29).
These words convey a sense of absolute security and immense tenderness. Our life is completely safe in the hands of Jesus and the Father, Who are one, one love, one mercy, revealed once and for all in the sacrifice of the Cross. To save the lost sheep that is all of us, the Pastor became Lamb and let Himself be sacrificed to take upon Himself, and take away, the sin of the world. In this way, He has given us life, but life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10)! This mystery is renewed, in an always surprising humility, the Eucharistic table. That’s where the sheep gather to feed themselves; that’s where they become one single [thing], among themselves and with the Good Shepherd.
That is why we no longer fear. Our lives are now saved from perdition. Nothing and no one can snatch us out of the hands of Jesus, because nothing and no one can win His love. The love of Jesus is invincible! The evil, the great enemy of God and of His creatures, tries in many ways to snatch eternal life. But the evil one cannot do anything if we do not open the doors of our soul and do not follow his deceitful flattery.
The Virgin Mary listened and followed obediently the Good Shepherd’s voice. May she help us to accept with joy the invitation of Jesus to become his disciples, and to always live in the certainty of being in the fatherly hands of God.
Pope Francis Regina Caeli of April 17, 2016