Every fourth Sunday of Easter the gospel is about Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Whenever I come to celebrate this Sunday I will always think of dear Pam Dodds who died on Mother’s Day this year. Many of you would have known her. She was quite a character in our parish community and we miss her presence at 9:30am Sunday Mass and early morning Masses on Wednesdays. Whenever we were together in a group she would inevitably say quite spontaneously “I love the Good Shepherd. Jesus is the Good Shepherd” Indeed she was quite right to remind us of this powerful image of God’s love and care.
St Peter in the second reading today talks about Jesus as the guardian and shepherd of our souls. Extending the metaphor of the shepherd in today’s Gospel Jesus talks about himself as the gate. It reminded me of my walks on Dartmoor where I came across old disused dry stone circular sheep pens. There was a gap in the circle. It was said that the shepherd would sleep in the gap and so protect the flock. He would act as the gate. Sheep would pass into the pen through his hands as he examined each one. So it is for us with Jesus as our shepherd and gate. “The shepherd would apply healing olive oil to any scratches or bruises, and gives each one a drink of cool water. Dry dusty eyes were soothed in a cup that is overflowing” (O’Flynn OFM). As the shepherd calls the sheep by name, the risen Lord calls me to share his divine life. He is the only way in (gate) to the fullness of life. “I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.” What is this fullness of life that he promises? There is much we can do to achieve physical well being, intellectual development and emotional balance, but it is only Christ who can give us the fullness of life. We achieve fullness of life when we welcome his life into our heart and we surrender ourselves to the Spirit.
Pope Francis said
“Jesus, Good Shepherd and door of the sheep, is a leader whose authority is expressed in service, a leader who, in order to command, gives his life and does not ask others to sacrifice theirs. One can trust in a leader like this, as the sheep who heed their shepherd’s voice because they know that with him one goes to good and abundant pastures. A signal, a call suffices, and they follow; they obey; they begin to walk, guided by the voice of the One whom they feel as a friendly presence, strong and mild at once, who calls, protects, consoles and soothes. This is how Christ is for us. There is a dimension of the Christian experience, that perhaps we leave somewhat in the shadows: the spiritual and affective dimension. Feeling connected to the Lord by a special bond, as sheep to their shepherd.”
“O my soul, rest in the Lord. He is my shepherd who calls me on the road to the fullness of life. He is the only gate into the fullness of life. He is the protecting gate which offers us security and freedom.”
Our dear Pam at the moment of her death has passed through the gate that is Jesus, the Good Shepherd. In the Lord’s own house shall she dwell forever and ever.