“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away — and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”
Today’s gospel reminds us the logo of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy from 8 December 2015 to 20 November 2016. It shows Jesus, personification of Mercy in the image of the good shepherd, carrying on his shoulders a "lost man", emphasizing how deep the Savior touches humanity; his eyes are merged with those of the carried man. In today’s gospel, St. John gives us our Lord’s description of himself not only under the well-known image of the good shepherd, who cares for his flock, but is also willing to die to protect the life of his flock.
First, Jesus points out what makes a good shepherd different from a bad one. The good shepherd is the owner of the flock, while the bad one is only a hired hand to look after the flock. While the owner of the flock is willing to die to protect his flock, the hired hand is prepared to leave the flock to dangers.
Why Jesus used the image of an owner of the flock and that of a hired hand of the flock to teach. This was because before his teaching today, the Pharisees accused Jesus restoring the sights of a born blind man with demoniacal power (John 9). It was the cured blind man who defended Jesus by saying: “We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing (John 9:31-33).”
In this episode, the Pharisees and Scribes focused on their gains and glory although they were the legal shepherds of the Jews. They did not care about the welfare of those under their care but wanted to protect their own rights at all costs even the welfare of those under their care. On the contrary, Jesus is the true good shepherd. He is prepared to die for those under his care. He also knows all his followers and his followers likewise know him. Those who do not know Jesus are not his followers.
The relationship between Jesus and the Father is always a topic occupied by the Gospel according to St. John. Here, Jesus brings up his relationship with the Father again. It is a kind of relationship based on true love. It is the Father’s plan to save mankind through Jesus and Jesus is about to carry out the plan by giving up his life for the Father and mankind. At this point Jesus reminds the Jews that they are not the only flock of God because he has other sheep. Hence, Jesus implies to the Jews that the Father’s salvation plan is universal and is for all mankind.
Why Jesus does this for us all? It is because of the Father’s love is poured upon the Son, who in obedient love lays down his life for mankind in fulfilment of the Father’s plan. His death on the cross and his resurrection prove that he was the Son and Messiah. By his passion, death and resurrection he opens the door from death to heaven.
What Jesus did was out of his love of the Father and mankind. He did it voluntarily. His choice was free. Can we be like Jesus to love God and our fellow brothers and sisters? Can we also be like Jesus to bring other sheep to His flock? Would we like to spend some time in our prayer to pray for those who have yet to know the voice of Jesus, the good shepherd? Amen.