Homily for the fourth Easter Sunday - Year C - Jn. 10:27-30
Father Daniel Meynen
"Jesus said : « My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one. »"
"Jesus said: « My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. »"
Jesus is the good Shepherd: "I am the good shepherd," he exclaimed (Jn. 10:11). The shepherd is the one who is in charge of leading sheep in a single herd to a place where the fresh and abundant grass will feed them to repletion. Gathering the sheep into one herd makes it easier to watch over them, for wolves and ferocious beasts, or even thieves, are always lying in wait for easy and defenseless prey: "The wolf snatches them and scatters them..." (Jn. 10:12) The shepherd makes sure that the sheep have sufficient food and are protected from those who could disperse them or kill them.
That is quite a program for the Shepherd of souls! He must be careful to give them an abundant and sufficient spiritual food, one that can feed their souls in a substantial manner. The Shepherd must also seek to maintain the believers in the unity of charity and truth. And finally, the Shepherd must warn those of whom he is in charge that they are in danger of losing their soul in such and such a circumstance. It is quite a program, one that goes as far as the imitation of the unique Shepherd: Jesus! A program that therefore goes even to the sacrifice of the Cross, to the martyrdom of heart or body, in following Christ!
"« I know them, and they follow me. »"
If the Shepherd of souls has responsibilities with regard to the believers who are confided to him, then likewise these believers, those who believe in Christ, are also responsible with regard to their Shepherd: they must follow their Shepherd, they must listen to his voice: "My sheep hear my voice..." If believers were to act only according to their personal preferences, then how could they be guided by their Shepherd and find substantial food for their souls? The primary role of believers is to obey their Shepherd: they must exercise what Saint Paul calls "the obedience of faith" (Rm. 1:5) How could believers remain united amongst themselves if they don't recognize their head, in the person of their Shepherd? It is necessary that one person unite all those who would truly want to entrust themselves to him, in "the obedience of faith." How could the faithful, alone, ultimately defend themselves against the forces of evil, when their Shepherd has been specially delegated to them to bring them the necessary help? The Shepherd is there, present in the midst of the believers, to give them the necessary counsel and the power of the sacraments.
"« I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one. »"
The remainder of Jesus' discourse relates mainly to the eucharistic food, that which gives us eternal life. A little before this, indeed, Jesus had announced the Eucharist, speaking of the Bread of Life, which is completely oriented toward the final Resurrection on the last day: "I am the bread of Life... All that the Father gives me will come to me... This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day... He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." (Jn. 6:35...54)
Jesus is the good Shepherd! But he is not only the Shepherd, he is also the food of those whom the Father has confided to him! The good Shepherd gives himself as food for his sheep! Now, there is only one Body of Christ: all those who eat the Bread of Life receive the same Body of Christ. It is therefore in this way that the good Shepherd, Jesus, achieves the unity of his sheep: all are but one in him! And at the same time, Jesus protects them from all evil: the eucharistic food provides believers with all the power of God himself!
Let us thank Jesus on this day! Let us welcome the good Shepherd into ourselves, let us follow him, let us listen to his voice, soft but powerful like the roar of the waters of a torrent! Let us ask Mary to help us to follow Jesus as she followed him throughout all of her life!