The joy of Easter continues as these weeks of liturgical celebration lead us to the Feast of the Ascension and then on to Pentecost Sunday. This weekend, we celebrate the 5th Sunday of Easter and the sacred texts turn our attention to the concept of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Over the centuries, the Church has used many images to convey the ideal relationship between ourselves and Jesus Christ. One of the most popular and most common is the idea of Jesus the Shepherd. This flows principally from the fact that he described himself as being the Shepherd.
In the first reading from St. Peter’s first epistle, states that through his suffering and death Jesus reaches out to us and draws us to himself as a shepherd would draw in straying sheep. Peter states, “Now you have returned to the shepherd the guardian of your souls!”
The Gospel is that delightful text from the tenth chapter of St. John where Jesus describes himself not only as a shepherd, but a brave shepherd and defender of his followers. Reminding us that the world is filled with thieves and marauders, we are not to worry because his strength is with us and will continue as long as we are faithful. This relationship is not merely one-sided. Jesus reminds us that while he knows his sheep that we are also to KNOW him. Our minds and hearts are to center on the historic reality of God present in the human story in the person of the second person of the Blessed Trinity. Jesus is with us, he is our Shepherd, but we must follow his leadership with faith and determination.