'I know mine and mine know me' by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
Jesus said: "I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father."
The Church in her wisdom feeds our hearts and minds on the Fourth Sunday of Easter with the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. This image, like every Old Testament image and every teaching of Christ in the New Testament, finds its fullest meaning in the light of the resurrection of Christ that we celebrate with such joy for 50 days. Why is this image so rich and how is it perfected by the mystery of the resurrection?
First of all, even Jesus' choice of the adjective "good" is worthy of note. He rebukes the use of it in His interaction with the rich man when He says, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone." (Mk 10:18) Jesus knew that early on in His ministry His young disciples had a very limited understanding of His identity. He wanted at that point to remind them that God is the source of all goodness, that He alone is truly "good."
As He gradually reveals His true identity over time, Jesus made His connection with the Father more and more clear. At this stage in His ministry, Jesus is willing to attribute this adjective to Himself and Him ministry. As the Eternal Son of the Father, Jesus is truly one with the Father and shares in the unity, truth, beauty and goodness that define His existence.
The most critical dimension of Jesus' pastoral care of the flock is the personalized care that He extends to each and every "sheep." Likewise, one of the great differences between a coach or a teacher who impacts our lives as young people and one who does not is indeed the personal concern that they make evident in their interaction with us. When we know and experience that personal concern for us as an individual, we are quick to embrace his or her coaching style, we are moved to ponder the truths of history or science that he or she shares in the classroom.
Jesus loves us with a love that is wider than the oceans and bigger than the skies, yet, it is still profoundly personal. We are precious to Him: "I am the good shepherd. and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father."
Jesus draws each member of His flock up into the intimate love and knowledge that He shares with His heavenly Father. This is mind-boggling! This is pastoral care that goes beyond our wildest imagination.
Of course, Our Lord taught by His example as well as by His world. The ultimate expression of His pastoral care is Calvary. "A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." We solemnly remembered and celebrated this supreme act of love during Holy Week. Jesus did not just talk the talk, He walked the walk. He offered the ultimate sacrifice to make it clear to the whole world that we are truly His own.
John the Evangelist wants to eliminate any doubt about Jesus' intentionality during His passion: "This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own." Jesus was completely in control in those last ugly moments of His life.
In the midst of the most profound suffering. Our Lord freely chose to surrender His life in the supreme gift of His whole being to the Father. That self-surrender was the greatest act of love that the world has ever known. That is pastoral care for the flock.
In the resurrection of Jesus, God fulfills every promise of both the Old and New Testaments. He forgives our sins, He restores our broken relationship with our heavenly Father, He opens the gates of heaven, He heals broken hearts and He reveals the fullness of His pastoral love for us. The resurrection is the Father's confirmation that Jesus fully accomplished the saving work that He came to do.
A question to ponder this Easter season: What am I doing on a daily basis to participate more fully in the new life that Jesus gives to us, to let the Good Shepherd lead me to green pastures?
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