Homily of the 4th Sunday of Easter, 22nd April 2018
The Good Shepherd
The fourth Sunday of Easter focuses on John 10: the Gospel of the Good Shepherd. This image is one of the most primitive, the most enduring and the most endearing images of our Lord. It is found first of all in the Old Testament. “The Lord says this: I am going to look after my flock myself and keep all of it in view. As a shepherd keeps all his flock in view when he stands up in the middle of his scattered sheep, so shall I keep my sheep in view. I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered during the mist and darkness. I myself will pasture my sheep… I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong…I shall be a true shepherd to them” (Ezekiel 34:11ff: Also cf. Jeremiah 23:1-4a; Micah 2:12-13). The 23rd Psalms, which is traditionally attributed to King David, is probably the most beautiful literary expression of the comparison between a shepherd’s care for his sheep and Yahweh’s faithful, merciful love for His people. It is also one of the most beloved Psalms, “The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I will want.” (Psalm 23)
Many parents hire maids to look after their children. In most cases, these Maids are often poorly paid and maltreated. In revenge they torture the children put under their charge. There is the story of this 22 year old Ugandan maid Jolly Tumuhiirwe who molested in several ways an 18 months “innocent and helpless child”. Worried parents, who installed a hidden camera to film the situation when they were at work, were shocked to see the footage showing the maid throwing their 18-month-old daughter to the floor. In the video, Tumuhiirwe was seen trying to force feed the child, before slapping her hard. After the girl vomits, the maid throws her facedown on to a hard floor, then hits her with a torch on the bottom. She then kicks the child’s face and stomach before putting her entire weight on the girl’s back, and then drags her out of the room, apparently unconscious. This video has received widespread publicity on social media. Tumuhiirwe represents the band wagon of bad shepherds who molest their sheep.
Jesus on the other hand is the Good Shepherd cares for each one of His Sheep. He lays down His life for His sheep. Jesus sets himself apart from other shepherds by identifying himself as the good shepherd. A good shepherd has several characteristics that impact our lives in a significant way. The good shepherd demonstrates sacrificial love. One of the marks of a good shepherd is overwhelming and steadfast love that knows no bounds to its expression. Such love will stop and nothing in order to enable itself to be known. A natural expression of love is concern. Jesus says that as a good shepherd he cares for his sheep. He wants the very best for them. The prophet Jeremiah echoes this thought when he says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11)
This duty to be a good shepherd particularly falls on bishops, who are the pastors or shepherds of the faithful of the dioceses entrusted to them. While Jesus Christ is the good shepherd, every Christian who exercises any responsibility toward others also has the duty of acting as a good shepherd. For example, every teacher, coach, and supervisor has a duty of care toward the children under them.
Jude Thaddeus Langeh, cmf
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