According to liturgical tradition, the gospel reading on this the 4th Sunday of Easter speaks about Jesus as shepherd.
This year’s gospel is from the gospel of John 10: 1 – 10. It is a gospel full of wonderful images. Jesus describes himself as “the gate”, and as “ the shepherd going ahead of his flock”. The sheep “hear his voice” and “one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out”.
Jesus told them this parable, but they failed to understand what he meant by all of this. Jesus, the good teacher that he was, continued, and he shared with them two powerful
I am statements: “I am the gate of the sheepfold” and “I am the gate.” He cannot be any clearer. He then goes on to use the beautiful word “safe”, when he says: “Anyone who enters through me will be safe”.
What powerfully caring images of Jesus John presents us with this Sunday. It is an easy Sunday gospel for us all to reflect on the “caring” shepherds around us at this time of Covid– 19. But before we do this, let us bring to mind what is actually happening to shepherds and sheep at this beautiful time of Spring in this part of the world.
It is the lambing season, so the shepherds/sheep farmers are extremely busy watching out for the safe delivery of the new lambs and the care of them and of the ewes. It takes a lot of skill and patience for shepherds to keep going, no matter how busy it is.
This brings us back to our reflection on all those shepherds who are using their skills to help others at this time, from the doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants to the catering staff and the cleaners. We must not forget those shepherds who are working in nursing homes with fragile, elderly people. That work takes a lot of skill, day in and day out. Yes, there are countless shepherds around.
This brings me to think about all the praying that is going on, and all outside church buildings which are empty! It certainly is a strange and “different” time for us all.
No Holy Week or Easter ceremonies to go to except to watch on the TV or internet, with just a few people in the church! Yet Holy Week is happening all around us in the dying and those who have died from the virus. Easter is also happening, not only in Nature, but in those who have been ill, maybe close to death, and who are now getting well. I can only imagine the “cloud” of prayer that surrounds these daily events.
Through it all, Jesus reminds us that he is “the gate” and that he will keep us “safe”. He also tells us that he has come to give us life to the full.
That brings me to ourselves, especially those who are over 70 years and are “cocooning”. Those younger can walk for two kilometres and get out their gates. We all need to “live life to the full” just where we are and in whatever way we can. In that way, we too can be “shepherds” to others through our good humour and gratitude in our present circumstances, no matter how trying it can be at times.
This is also Vocations Sunday, so maybe it is a golden opportunity for us all to look at where we are being “called” each day and how we can be filled with life and hope and joy just where we are, knowing that the Shepherd is our “gate” and keeps us all very safe.
Sr. Pauline McGrath OP