Only Jesus is the true shepherd
Living the Word l Father Timothy Hepner
Fourth Sunday of Easter l April 30
Acts 2:14a,36-41; Psalm 23:1-3a,3b-4,5,6; 1 Peter 2:20b-25; John 10:1-10
Jesus seems to ask a lot of me. When I became serious about being his friend, I had to give up other friendships. I had to stop listening to certain kinds of music and watching certain kinds of TV. I missed out on opportunities. I had to do things I didn’t want to do, like tell the truth and work hard at my job and my schoolwork. As I got older, the demands didn’t stop. The people who spoke for him told me what to do, how I needed to change, and ultimately decided my fate. Now there’s a man in a pointy hat who could call me up and send me to Siberia if he wanted to!
Jesus thought of me while he was dying on the cross and my sins didn’t repel him. They drew him closer to me and led him to embrace his death so that I could know the same love of the Father that he knows
The friends I left, the media I gave up, the opportunities I missed out on, and that force inside me that tugs toward sin and selfishness: All of these are things the thief uses to steal, slaughter, and destroy. The beautiful, exciting moments that Jesus has provided — new and deeper spiritual friendships, opportunities to see new places and go on new adventures, and the dignity of working hard and telling the truth: All of these are a foretaste of the abundant life Jesus is giving me, which will be fully consummated in heaven.
WHO CAN WE TRUST?
Even when Christ “cuts me to the heart” through my conscience and through people around me who point out where I need to grow, I know that Jesus is opening the door to wider pastures and more abundant life. He amazes me by forgiving my sins and healing me on deeper and deeper levels. “He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.” Jesus thought of me while he was dying on the cross and my sins didn’t repel him. They drew him closer to me and led him to embrace his death so that I could know the same love of the Father that he knows.
Then, after he passed into death, he came out the other side victorious. So from now on, freedom isn’t just about being free from something, but about being free for someone. As St. Peter says, I can now “live for righteousness” — that is, right relationship with my friend, my savior, and my God. Only Jesus can be fully trusted with my life. I can’t fully trust our culture or even myself. Only Jesus is the true shepherd.
EVEN SHEPHERDS NEED PRAYERS
But what about that man in the pointy hat? Well, he is not only an instrument of Christ the Good Shepherd, but his face, his hands, and his voice. St. Ignatius of Antioch, who died in A.D. 115, said:
“For Jesus Christ, our life, without whom we cannot live, is the mind of the Father, just as the bishops, appointed over the whole earth, are in conformity with the mind of Jesus Christ. It is fitting, therefore, that you should be in agreement with the mind of the bishop as in fact you are. Your excellent presbyters, who are a credit to God, are as suited to the bishop as strings to a harp. So in your harmony of mind and heart the song you sing is Jesus Christ.”
I can’t entrust myself to an abstract idea of Christ. I have to entrust myself to him through my bishop. And my people (as scary as this is to me) entrust themselves to Christ through me.
When was the last time you prayed for Bishop Louis Tylka or for your pastor? Every bishop today has a lot of weight on his shoulders. They are the chief targets of the “thief,” the evil one who is the enemy of the Good Shepherd. Our salvation depends on our relationship with our bishop and parish priests. Please pray that we can entrust our lives more fully to Jesus the Good Shepherd so that we can be his hands, voice, and face to lead you into the abundant life that Jesus promised. Even if the path to abundant life leads through Siberia!
FATHER TIMOTHY HEPNER is pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish, Monmouth, and St. Patrick Parish, Raritan. He also serves as chaplain for the St. Augustine Newman Club at Monmouth College.