When we hear Jesus say, “I am the good shepherd,” it’s tempting to wander off into bucolic bliss. If we do that, we’re missing the radical point of this I AM statement.
The startling question underneath it is this: Good for whom? That is, who is Jesus being a good shepherd for? Well, of course, us, the flock of the Lord. But we are not the only ones. Jesus says there are others outside of this flock for whom he must lay down his life until there is one flock and one shepherd.Jesus is not the only good shepherd who must lay down his life. Two weeks from now, we will hear Jesus say that all who want to be his friends must also lay down their lives for their friends—that is, for Jesus’s ever-expanding flock. Click To Tweet
This should convict us to ask: Why aren’t they part of the fold? Have we done something to prevent them from wanting to belong or even feeling welcomed? Have we been protective of our pasture, our pew, our privileges to let Jesus be good for those we might not want among us, those we think don’t deserve it? Are we hoarding Jesus’s goodness for ourselves?
Here’s the twist of this Gospel’s two-edged sword: Jesus is not the only good shepherd who must lay down his life. Two weeks from now, we will hear Jesus say that all who want to be his friends must also lay down their lives for their friends—that is, for Jesus’s ever-expanding flock. We aren’t the sheep here. We’re the shepherd.
This post was first published in “GIA Quarterly: A Liturgical Music Journal.”
Image credit: Photo by POOYAN ESHTIAGHI on Unsplash.
Read more reflections on the Sunday readings here:
- To the end
- God’s reign is wild
- The mystery of a meal
- Christ our compass
- The Spirit of Truth will not be silenced