First Reading: Acts 13:14; 43-52
Responsorial Psalm: We are His people, the sheep of His flock (Ps 100:1-2; 3; 5)
Second Reading: Rev. 7:9; 14b-17
Gospel: Jn. 10:27-30 NAB
“My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one.”
In this Gospel, there are three ideas or topics clearly seen in the passage:
First, and foremost, is about Jesus being the Good Shepherd;
Second is the unity of the Trinity; and
Lastly is about Peter’s ministry as the appointed Shepherd of Christ’s flock in relation to the Gospel Reading last week.
This passage is actually the parting account in the Good Shepherd discourse at the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John. If we expand this discourse, we may read the very resounding words: “I AM the Good Shepherd” (10:11; 14), with the qualities of: giving His life for the sheep—something which a hired man cannot do (verse 12); knowing the needs of His sheep (verse 14); that His flock is open for all who wants to believe in Him—in other words, universal (verse 16); and that even if He has the power to lay down His life in His free will as the Son of Man, he also has the power to take it up again as the Son of God (vv. 17-18).
Another point of the Gospel is the focus on Jesus being “of substance with the Father.” Of course this mystery is very hard to imagine, especially to skeptics; but if we reread the passage, we see that because of His great love for His flock, Jesus assures that He will not let go of it, just as the Father does not abandon it and all of creation. This similarity makes the two distinct Persons unite; and with His phrase “The Father and I are one,” the Holy Spirit manifests Himself, for it is in this affirmation that the He force Himself out because of the mutual love of the Father and the Son.
Finally, we look back at last week’s Gospel (on which I apologize for not posting), where Jesus appoints Peter as the earthly shepherd of the sheepfold of Christ, only junior to the Good Shepherd. This does not mean that Peter and his successors as Pope are the shepherds, but merely the universal Vicar responsible for tending and feeding the sheep of Christ—a co-worker to the Good Shepherd, but NOT a hired hand.
When I was in my Literature class and we were discussing Psalm 23 as a literary art, my professor refers sheep as “stupid” creatures for their biological instincts; and he was right, for that was a fact about them. But when we shift this discussion to a theological light, of course they will not think for they are not rational creatures, but because this poem was made by an inspired rational being in the person of King David (?), and referring himself as a sheep, does it mean that he is also stupid? Of course not; in some way, I beg to disagree. There are similarities, though; like our tendencies to fail, to sin, to displease God and man, to be egoistic, sarcastic, or even to be sadistic, but through these, the Lord is still in our midst, waiting for us to recognize Him—where the comparison is to be a sheep lost and being found by a shepherd who left the rest of his flock just to find the sheep and take it home in his care.
A shepherd is, in the broadest sense, the one who guides, guards, and takes care of the sheep. Theologically and politically speaking, a shepherd is a leader, with their respective constituents as their flock.
It is a great challenge for every Pope—or in a smaller and more appropriate scale, every bishop—to imitate Christ, the Good Shepherd, in the line of their mission and ministry: to be a father to all who believe in Him and to be the perfect example of being an alter Christi—another Christ—to their faithful, especially the former, who is considered the Shepherd of the flock on earth. This mission and ministry is also a responsibility of every Pontiff, who has been attacked by lies, corruption, and even the Evil One. But prayers and determination makes him stronger and more faithful to his Shepherd—Jesus Christ Himself.
We also have another kind of shepherd; of which we badly need, most especially in this time of uncertainty and strife: a political one. This shepherd must be dedicated to uplift and strengthen the welfare of his flock—that he may be ready to respond to their needs—that he may be ready to risk his own life the moment his sheep are in danger of fierce wolves (and in speaking of wolves, he must not also cry “WOLF!” when there are actually none)—that he may be ready to die in defense of his flock. We need this kind of hero-leader as all government posts—and our Motherland—are at stake as the elections draw near; we need this ideal head-servant who will follow, at the best of his duties, the footsteps of Jesus. And even if the Good Shepherd has to die on the Cross, He is raised from the dead and is among us to this day. This hopeful statement is a fulfillment that even if He has the power to lay down His life, He also has the power to raise it up again (cf. Jn. 10:17-18).
By this end, I just imagine how many people, including myself, influenced by the example of the Good Shepherd, are discerning very much on what is really my role to my community, to society, to my field of specialty, and most of all, to God. I pray that those who are at my state would be guided accordingly by that same Good Shepherd, and those who are working with Him as shepherds in their own ministries, especially priests and bishops, that they may be reignited of His mission as priest, prophet, and servant-king to their flocks.