Fourth Sunday of Easter
‘I am the gate.
Whoever enters through me will be saved,
and will come in and go out and find pasture’. (Jn 10:9)
It’s not always easy for us to understand some of Jesus’ sayings in the Gospels, but we can take heart that those who heard him didn’t always ‘get it’ either. Take this Sundays Gospel from John 10. Here we find two images, the first is all about the sheepfold and the social relationships involved between shepherd and sheep. The second involves the gate and the journeys in and out of the fold. The ‘good’ shepherd has to be open and honest, approach the sheep in a proper manner, know them and learn their ways. Because there is trust and recognition between flock and shepherd, they follow when he calls and guides them into new pastures. On the other hand they run away from the thief and stranger!
Are sheep like that you might ask? That’s the problem, a lot of people haven’t the direct connection with these images, but those who do understand can help us unpick these sayings. Jesus removes any misunderstanding about who the shepherd really is and why the gate is important, because he identifies himself as both, he is the only one to follow and the only gate we can go through on the way to the pastures of life!
Because we belong to his flock, Jesus identifies the characteristics of trust and ‘open’ honesty, by which we will know him, and in our turn be known by him and others…‘whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gatebut climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.
But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice’ (Jn 10: 1a-2)
The sheepfold has a number of sheep, not only one flock, so it’s important that everyone knows how to identify the true voice of the Lord calling us. This shepherd is transparent and open, before all else he puts the concern and care for his sheep first, leading, guiding and caring for them as they move into the abundant pastures of life. The gate is also the enfolding symbol of the care, protection, and trust of God for us in freedom. Both images make clear what we are to do: trust in Jesus; follow him in truth, be a people of service, loving God and neighbour as ourselves!
Good shepherd, seek me out, and bring me home to your fold again.
Deal favourably with me according to your good pleasure,
till I may dwell in your house all the days of my life,
and praise you for ever and ever with them that are there.(
Jerome, c 342 - 420)
Fr Robin is an Eastern Rite Catholic Chaplain for Melkites in the UK. He is also an Ecumenical Canon of Christ Church, Oxford
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