Bro. Resty Manansala Castillo
Each year on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, the Church celebrates Good Shepherd Sunday and we are asked to contemplate the role of the Good Shepherd in our lives. It is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations and, during this year particularly in the Philippines, we pray for clergy and consecrated persons. On this Good Shepherd Sunday, our Gospel today leads us to contemplate God as a loving and caring Shepherd. He is the God who leads all people to a green pasture and springs of water.
In the history of the Israelites, we see how they used the image of the shepherd to describe God. As a Shepherd of his sheep, God protected and joined them in their journey. In fact, if we were to summarize salvation history, we can see how God leads all people on their journey back to him. Along the journey they were lost but God sought them out and gathered them through their human leaders (Abraham, Moses and the prophets). Our God models true leadership by shepherding his people. His leading is personal and intimate as to us by Jesus, the Incarnate Word and Good Shepherd.
Jesus said that he came to us to become a Good Shepherd. He lived, breathed, and smelled like the sheep because he spent every moment with the sheep entrusted to him by the Father. The shepherd knows the voice of his sheep. To God it sounds like a baby crying out. Each one of us is unique but, like a mother who could tell that it is her baby crying for food, changing the diaper, out of fear or pain, our God knows our needs. So, it is with the shepherd who would sense and know the cries of his sheep because he has been with them 24/7. In order to keep the sheep safe, the shepherd builds rock pen. The rock fence is not only to gather the sheep together but also to keep the wolves out. But there is no gate. So at night the shepherd sleeps at the entrance of the fence. The shepherd becomes the gate and he makes sure that no one will enter and grab any of his sheep.
In the book of the prophet Ezekiel, we hear of a hired shepherd who shows up in the morning and leaves in the evening. He concerns only for profit and not the welfare of the sheep. He does not have concern if the sheep would are scattered or lost. In the history of the Israelites, God saw how his people were like sheep without a shepherd , neglected and abandoned . God has promised that he will personally search and shepherd his people. In the fullness of time, Jesus was sent to seek out the lost and gather all people into himself. That’s why Jesus said: I am the Good Shepherd, not only do I know my mine and mine know me but also I come to call them so that everyone may hear my voice. There are some other sheep out there who do not know me. They are lost sheep. He promised that he will also bring them into his fold and there will be one flock and one shepherd. As he found the lost; he ate and drank with them, he healed them, fed them, served them and offered his life for them. This is a proof that a good shepherd will give his life for his sheep. In the gospel of Luke, it says that a good shepherd will leave the ninety nine sheep to search for the lost one. And once he finds it, he will carry it on his shoulders. Perhaps the sheep was lost maybe because it was sick or wounded. The shepherd will treat the wound first before carrying it. This is similar to what the Good Samaritan did for the wounded Jew who was the victim of robbers. The Good Samaritan was moved with compassion to approach the victim. He poured oil and wine over his wounds. To our modern ways, it might see kind a strange as a medical technique, but we could say that the wine and the oil were the ancient equivalent to betadine or hydrogen peroxide. In other words, the Good Samaritan treated the wounds thoroughly. The alcohol in the wine washes away impurities, while the oil is the symbol of strength. Perhaps symbolically, the wine might be the blood of Christ, the precious blood flowing from the cross which takes away our sins; it burns away impurities and spiritual wounds. And the oil can symbolize the strength of the Holy Spirit that fortifies us to be able to avoid sin in the future. The Good Samaritan uses his own clothing to bandage the wounds of the victim. Sin strips the souls of its dignity, but Jesus takes from the clothing of his own sacred humanity and clothes us anew. He covers the wounds of our sin which is his own flesh He restores our dignity as children of God. And after treating the victim, he carried him on his shoulders to brought him to the inn keeper. The Good Samaritan and the Good Shepherd show the compassionate love of God for the lost. This compassion is still shown to us by Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
During the Last Supper, Jesus commissioned his disciples to continue his mission of shepherding the people through the gift of ordination. They will lead by being instruments of grace for healing and symbols of unity. They will be the gate as was Jesus who offered his life for the sheep. As we celebrate this Good Shepherd Sunday in this Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons, we reflect on how those called to this particular way of life are challenged to be good shepherds in a unique and radical way.. Their mission should be always oriented to transmission toward the divine life and bring grace to the hearts and minds of the people. This was also the message of Pope Francis during one of the previous World Day Prayer for Vocation: to follow Christ by their way of being and acting. They proclaim the healing and liberating message of the Gospel for those who are physically or spiritually wounded. They also encourage the young people to never be afraid to go out from themselves and begin a journey as this gospel transforms them.
Young people are invited to hear the call of the Good Shepherd and to return to him and not listen to the other voices which want to pull them away from the safety that the Lord provides. Be not afraid when God calls you to follow his footsteps because your life will become richer and more joyful each day.
Let us pray that those whom God calls to become shepherds may respond generously, give their minds and hearts to him, and live a vocation of generous service so that all people might come to know and love the Lord who brought us the gift of eternal life.