Fourth Sunday of Easter
Gospel: John 10: 11-18
The passage today is one that Jesus might have used when he was reminding his disciples that he had foretold his death and resurrection. He is the Good Shepherd who seeks out the lost and the lame - but who is also prepared to lay down his own life to save his flock. He is the one who will face the wolf - and the forces of evil - using his own life as a shield for his sheep. Because of his willingness to sacrifice his life on their behalf, the Father ensures that he can be restored to life - and to draw all into one flock with one shepherd.
For many years, such a passage was used to maintain that everyone was destined to become part of the one flock - a Christian - or be lost. To suggest this today in a world where we are increasingly aware of the riches present in other faiths would be to deny the tenderness of the imagery used by Jesus.
This is not an exclusive flock of those who are saved. Nor does the shepherd demand that people belong to it. This is a flock of those who have heard the voice of the Shepherd and responded. How they will respond depends on where they are and the culture and faith from which they come. For some, the step to becoming a disciple of Jesus is one that will seem the only one to take - this will be their response to hearing his voice. They will bring them something of the richness of their heritage - and broaden the Church's understanding of what it means to be human.
For generations, the Church has been closely associated with European culture - and this has often been imposed on other races and culture as “Christianity”. This is beginning to change as people throughout the world begin to look afresh at the culture in which they live and draw from its heritage.
People of faith are realising that God is much greater than one culture or one way of thinking. They are recognising that the whole world is holy ground on which the Shepherd walked long before them. Here, the Shepherd spoke to people in words that spoke to their souls - to their deepest dreamings. Silenced for generations, these are words the rest of the Church is beginning to hear - words of the Shepherd to his beloved flock.
What does this mean for me?