The Gospel today again illustrates the depth of the Father’s love for His people. It is in fact, a lesson for leaders who ought to model their lives to Jesus, who describes His relationship with His followers like the relationship between a good shepherd and His sheep. As the Good Shepherd risks and is prepared to give up His life to protect the sheep, Jesus willingly allowed Himself to suffer and be crucified for the sake of His sheep. On the other hand, a hired shepherd abandons the flock in the face of danger.
“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not His own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because He works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.” (Jn. 10: 11-13)
Leaders ought to be brave, courageous and possess the attitude of unselfish service. Reading further the verses following Jesus teaching, we learn that the Pharisees and the other religious leaders understand that the Lord is referring to them when He describes the hired shepherds. They were so angry that they resisted the Lord all the more and “again picked up rocks to stone him.” (v. 31) This anger continued until Jesus’ death.
The actions of a good shepherd for the flock is part of the shepherd’s job. However, the actions of the good shepherd are based upon the relationship that develops between the shepherd and the sheep. While the hired shepherd leaves the sheep when confronted with danger, the good shepherd stays with the sheep and is ready to give up His life for them. This is at the core of the difference between the good shepherd and the hired shepherd. The good shepherd knows the sheep and therefore acts out of love. This is not just a job, but His love for them is part of who He is to them. Thus, leaders should emulate such caring attitude to their followers as a good shepherd cares for his sheep.
Jesus also emphasizes that His flock also include other sheep, far more than the dispersed children of Israel,
“I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (v. 16)
And He gave His Church the mission of shepherding all peoples to the Father. This is seen in the First Reading, in the testimony of St. Peter, whom the Lord appointed shepherd of the early Church. Peter quoted the Psalms and tells Israel’s leaders of their rejection and eventual crucifixion and death of Christ. Through the ministry of the Church, this mission continues until all the world is one flock under the One Good Shepherd. As to when that happens, only God knows.
Let us pray that we continue to grow in faith and pledge again to be more faithful and grateful to Him for all the blessings we have and will continue to receive from Him.
“The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.” (Ps. 118: 22)