Today is the 4th Sunday of Easter Year A. Every year, we observe this Sunday as Good Shepherd Sunday. In each of the three liturgical years, A, B, and C, on the 4th Sunday of Easter, we read a portion of John 10 for the gospel passage. For Year A, we read verses 1 – 10. This Chapter presents Jesus to us as the Good Shepherd. In today’s second reading, Peter presents Jesus to us as an example who goes ahead of us as the Good Shepherd that we as sheep may follow in his footsteps. The responsorial psalm comes from Psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd.
There are four accounts of the Gospel as we have in the bible today. We have the account by Matthew, by Mark, by Luke, and by John. The first three, Matthew, Mark, and Luke share a lot in common. Scripture scholars call them the synoptic gospels as they see the story of Jesus almost from the same point of view. One thing they share is the parables of Jesus. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we find the exact parables or Jesus, or sometimes with slight differences. John’s account on the other hand does not dwell on the parables of Jesus like we see in the synoptic gospels.
However, there is one interesting link between John’s account of the Gospel and the other three accounts in terms of parables. There are various arguments among scripture scholars regarding the dating of the various accounts of the gospel. But one thing they all seem to accept is that John’s account was the last to be written. The first three gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, present Jesus as the giver of parables, but John presents Jesus as the parable of God. While in the synoptic gospels, we see Jesus presenting various images in the parables, in John’s account, Jesus himself is the subject of the parabolic images.
In the synoptic gospels, Jesus tells parables about vineyards where God is the owner (Mark 12:1-2; Matthew 20:28-32), but in John’s account, Jesus himself is the vine and the disciples are the branches (John 15:1-11). In Matthew 18:10-14; Luke 15:3-7, Jesus tells the parable of a shepherd who seeks a lost sheep, but in John’s account of the gospel, Jesus himself is the Good Shepherd who will lay down his life for the lost.
So, for John, Jesus is not just a teacher of parables, he himself is the parable of God. That is, in addition to teaching with parables, Jesus himself was a parable: his person, his stories, and his actions. In Jesus, God reveals part of Godself to humanity. The incarnation of Jesus proclaimed, “Look, this is what God is like.” Jesus revealed the nature of God and provided a human image through which hearers could discover God and relate with God. The Incarnation then makes Jesus the parable of God since parables use images to communicate something deeper to the listeners.
Today’s gospel passage differentiates Jesus the Good Shepherd from others that come as thieves and robbers. The bad shepherds, who are thieves and robbers always leave the sheep worse than they meet them. But Jesus the Good Shepherd always leaves the sheep better than he meets them. The Good Shepherd calls each sheep by name. This is because each sheep is unique, and the Good Shepherd loves them and cares for them in their uniqueness. We are his sheep, he does not treat us like a bunch of beings, he knows our individual needs, and he provides for us accordingly. The Good Shepherd walks ahead of his sheep. That gives him the foreknowledge of whatever is ahead of them. He takes away from their path, whatever he deems is beyond their power. Remember, Jesus became a human being like us to have our full human experience, and to make the path straight for us.
As we observed earlier, Jesus did not only teach in parables, but he also himself is the parable of God. He came to reveal God to us. His revelation of God to us is not just for our knowledge, but that we may also become like God. Peter tells us in the second reading that Jesus leaves us an example that we may follow in his footsteps. So, Jesus as the Good Shepherd invites us to become good shepherds to our family members, our friends, our neighbors, and all we meet. That entails that unlike bad shepherds, we must leave people better than we meet them. We must make sincere efforts to know people for who they are and help them to be the best of themselves, not forcing them to be who they are not. When we are in a privileged position, we must make it easier for others to enjoy the same privileges and not make it as bad as we met it or worse than we experienced it when we were climbing. God is our Shepherd. Jesus the parable of God is the Good Shepherd. Jesus wants us to be shepherds to one another. My dearly beloved in Christ, what is your true assessment of yourself as a shepherd? How do other people experience you? Do they experience you as a good shepherd or as a bad shepherd?