Sunday, 13 April 2008

I am the good shepherd


It is hard not to think that Jesus has got his metaphors a bit mixed up when we consider what he tells us in today’s Gospel. (“I am the good shepherd” (Jn 10:11).

He starts with the image of a Sheepfold. Then he speaks of the Gate of the Sheepfold; then of the Shepherd who enters through the Gate; then of the Gatekeeper who lets the Shepherd in.

He then switches back to the image of the Shepherd who leads the flock but, in his explanation to his uncomprehending listeners, he suddenly jumps back again to the image of the Gate: “I tell you solemnly, I am the Gate of the sheepfold.” “Anyone who enters through me will be safe: He will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture.”

It is only after all this that Jesus explicitly applies the image of the Shepherd directly to himself. He finally says: “I am the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep….I know my own and my own know me.”

In summary, the Lord would seem to be implying that the basic picture is of His Heavenly Father being the Gatekeeper; He himself being the Gate, and his ministers down the centuries being the Shepherds who pass through the gate but who do so only as his own representatives, for ultimately he alone is both the Gate and the one and only True Good Shepherd.

This brings us to consider this morning the tremendous privilege we have in knowing Him and being called to follow Him who is the only true Gate to eternal life.

All other faiths have their own image of God; their own attitude towards God, more or less true. But no other Faith can give the knowledge of God that comes to us through our Faith in the Son of God incarnate; Jesus, our Brother in the flesh. What a difference that makes. We can hardly imagine what it must be like to have no other image of God and of our relationship with him than the image that still persists in Islam or even in Judaism. And how many millions, and indeed billions, of souls does that include!

We can only cry out with St Paul to the Philippians:

“Because of Christ, I have come to consider all these advantages I had as disadvantages. Not only that, but I believe that nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For him, I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish if only I can have Christ and be given a place in him.

Abbot Raymond. Morning Chapter Talk

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