4th Sunday of Easter Reflection
LAYING DOWN YOUR LIFE
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.” John 10:11
Traditionally, this Fourth Sunday of Easter is called “Good Shepherd Sunday.” This is because the readings for this Sunday from all three liturgical years come from the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel in which Jesus teaches clearly and repeatedly about His role of being the Good Shepherd. What does it mean to be a shepherd? More specifically, how is it that Jesus most perfectly acts as the Good Shepherd of us all?
The image of Jesus being a shepherd is an endearing image. Many artists have shown Jesus as a gentle and kind man holding a sheep in His arms or on His shoulders. In part, it is this holy image that we put before our mind’s eye to ponder today. This is an inviting image and one that helps us to turn to our Lord, as a child would turn to a parent in need. But though this gentle and endearing image of Jesus as a shepherd is quite inviting, there are other aspects of His role as Shepherd that should also be considered.
The Gospel quoted above gives us the heart of Jesus’ definition of the most important quality of a good shepherd. He is one who “lays down his life for the sheep.” He is one who is willing to suffer, out of love, for those entrusted to his care. He is one who chooses the life of the sheep over his own life. At the heart of this teaching is sacrifice. A shepherd is sacrificial. And being sacrificial is the truest and most accurate definition of love.
Though Jesus is the “Good Shepherd” Who gave His life for us all, we must also daily strive to imitate His sacrificial love for others. We must be Christ, the Good Shepherd, to others every day. And the way we do this is by looking for ways to lay our lives down for others, putting them first, overcoming every selfish tendency, and serving them with our lives. Love is not only experiencing endearing and heart warming moments with others; first and foremost, love is about being sacrificial. Reflect, today, upon these two images of Jesus the Good Shepherd. First, ponder the tender and gentle Lord Who welcomes you and cares for you in a holy, compassionate, and endearing way. But then turn your eyes to the Crucifixion. Our Good Shepherd did, indeed, give His life for us all. His shepherding love led Him to suffer greatly and to lay His life down so that we could be saved. Jesus was not afraid to die for us, because His love was perfect. We are the ones who matter to Him, and He was willing to do anything necessary to love us, including sacrificing His life out of love. Ponder this most holy and pure sacrificial love and strive to more fully offer this same love to all those whom you are called to love.
A reflection for the 4th Sunday of Easter