Homily for the fourth Easter Sunday

Year A  -  John 10:1-10


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"«Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber;  but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.  A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.»  This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

"So Jesus again said to them, «Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.  All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them.  I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.»"



Homily:


"«Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber;  but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.»"

Jesus the Good Shepherd:  this is the theme of the gospel for today, the fourth Sunday of Easter!  It is a well-known image, one that leads us to a tender and sweet confidence in our Savior and Master, Jesus of Nazareth, the Risen Lord!  But it seems that at the very beginning, when Jesus first told this story, this parable, to his disciples, they didn't understand its entire scope, nor its deep and mysterious meaning:  "This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them."

Let us look at the various elements spoken of by Jesus.  There are:  the sheepfold, the shepherd, the door, the gatekeeper, the sheep, the pasture, the thief.  In this passage from the gospel, Jesus says that he is "the door".  But it seems clear, from the word's general meaning, that he is also the shepherd;  in fact, he will say a little later:  "I am the good shepherd." (John 10:11)  It is also clear that the sheep are men and women who ardently want to be saved from eternal death by Jesus, the Son of God, he who is the "good shepherd."  Opposed to these, we can identify the thief and all the robbers as being Satan and all his servants, those who want souls to be lost for all eternity.  Three elements remain:  the sheepfold, the gatekeeper, and the pasture.

The central element, the gatekeeper, makes it easy to find the meaning of the other elements.  Jesus says:  "He who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  To him the gatekeeper opens."  Customarily, a door, if it is locked shut, is opened with the help of one or more keys;  and therefore, if the gatekeeper opens the door to the shepherd, in order for him to enter, it is through the use of the keys of his office.  So it is clear that the gatekeeper is Peter the Apostle, he to whom Jesus said:  "«I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.»" (Mt. 16:19)

If Peter is the gatekeeper, then the sheepfold is the Church, and the pasture is the kingdom of Heaven.  Even though there are several sheepfolds (cf. John 10:16), there is however only one pasture to which all the sheep are called to go to graze, through the office of the one and only gatekeeper, Simon Peter.  Thus, Jesus added:  "I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd." (John 10:16)  The final realization which Jesus, the Risen Lord, wants to accomplish in accordance with the will of his Father is the unity of all the sheep under the head of one shepherd!

"«When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.  A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.»"

"When he has brought out all his own . . ."  This parable applies to the time of the final Resurrection, when "all" the sheep will leave the sheepfold in order to go to the pasture of the Kingdom of Heaven, following Christ, the good shepherd, who walks at the head of the one flock which his Father entrusted to him.  Then, all the sheep will hear the voice of the shepherd, the voice which is that of the very Word of God!  Then, this voice will realize the unity of all in the one who is the unique Word of God!   "When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice."

When the Lord will return at the end of time, the Angels will be the spokesmen for this unique voice, firm yet gentle, the voice that already realizes, in hope, the unity of all the sheep:  "For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first;  then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord." (1 Th. 4:16-17)

"«Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.  All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them.  I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.»"

Jesus says this over and over again:  "I am the door."  There is a door we must go through in order to have life, and to have it abundantly:  it is Jesus, the good shepherd!  But beware the thief!  "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."  If Jesus is the good shepherd and the door through which the sheep must pass in order to have life, then we must beware!  For there is also the thief, who may resemble the good shepherd and who may also be a door, but a door that leads to perdition!  "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Mt. 7:13-14)

Jesus is the good shepherd who gives his life for his sheep:  "The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep . . .  I lay down my life for the sheep." (John 10:11 and 15)  Let us contemplate Jesus, the good shepherd, who gives his life for us!  Let us adore him in the Mystery of his Eucharist!  Let us ask Mary, in the course of this Sunday celebration, for the gift of faith and confidence in her divine Son, in order that Jesus, the good shepherd, through our reception of the Eucharist, might truly give us abundant life!