April 18, 2018
One of the most beautiful images that Jesus gives us of himself in John’s gospel is that he is the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep, calls them by name, and is willing to lay down his life for them (John 10: 11).
There are two aspects about this image that were born out in the reality of being a shepherd at the time of Jesus. First, when shepherds would bring their small flocks down from the hills into a town, they would enclose them in the same pen. But, like dogs, sheep would recognize the voice of their shepherd and when each shepherd called his sheep by name, they would come to him and follow him. So, in this light, it is not by accident that when Mary encounters the Risen Jesus she does not, at first, recognize him—until he calls her by name. For he is the Good Shepherd, who knows each of his sheep and calls them by name.
Second, when the shepherd was with his sheep in the hill country, the shepherd would gather his sheep into a type of enclosure by using the side of the hill and arranging brush to encircle the sheep. There would be an opening for the sheep to enter the sheepfold, but then the shepherd would lay down across the opening—literally laying down his life for his sheep, in order to protect them from wolves and thieves. This image beautifully captures the love that Jesus has for us, by laying down his life in his passion and death.
As members of the Congregation of the Resurrection, we “give glory to God by manifesting the presence of Christ to the world” (Constitutions of the Congregation of the Resurrection #5). All followers of Jesus can accomplish this great work in their own acts of shepherding: binding the wounds of others, calling forth the best in others, and being of service—and even sacrifice—so that others will have life. In and through acts such as these, the Risen Lord will continue to be manifested in our world.