4th Sunday of Easter B - Homily 1

Homily 1 - 2006

I am the good shepherd

It’s one of a number of titles that John’s gospel gives to Jesus: I am the bread of life.  I am the light of the world. I am the vine.  I am the resurrection and the life

In a way they express the fruit of the reflection by those in John’s community of their experience of the risen Jesus.

If you reflected on your experience of the risen Jesus in your life, would one of those titles come to mind? or is there another one you would think up yourself to better express just what Jesus means to you?

In giving Jesus the title The Good Shepherd, the gospel gives two reasons why: Jesus laid down his life freely for those in his care; Jesus knows those who are his and they know him.

I am grateful, of course, that Jesus died for us all.  What particularly appeals to me is that he knows me and that I know him - not so much as a shepherd [that does not touch me at all] but as friend... I do like that passage later in John’s gospel that has Jesus saying: I do not call you servants but friends.

Friendship talks of intimacy – of loving and of being loved, just as the persons we are.

It invites revealing ourselves. It energizes the desire to know each other ever more thoroughly, ever more deeply – not just with the head, but with a deeper sensitivity: getting on to each other’s wavelength, sort of knowing what’s going on in him without needing to put it into words... And it works both ways.

I remember reading a comment in a book I read thirty years or more ago, and it is one that has stayed with me: "For friendship to grow, you have to be prepared to waste a lot of time together".

Well, I put in the time, and often it seems sheer waste: nothing happens; I get distracted; can’t keep my mind still; I feel impatient.  But over time, the friendship has grown deeper, grown thicker: We have become part of each other’s lives.

Another fascinating thing: knowing that others also share Jesus' friendship does not come across as threat – there’s no sense of competition – but as wonderful encouragement and support.  It really thrills me when I know that there are others having a go to pray seriously.  Sharing a common love brings a whole other dimension.

Even knowing that each of us is here today freely, because we choose to be here (God knows: there are a thousand other things we could be doing! But we’re here) because each of us, in our own way, and at our own level, has been touched by the loving God.  Whenever I stop to think of it, I find it very encouraging.

For me all this is light years away from a sense of shepherd and sheep, of all belonging to one flock.  That language, that imagery, doesn’t touch me.   But perhaps it is trying to touch in to the same experience: I know mine and my own know me.