April 30, 2023; Jn 10:1-10; Fourth Sunday of Easter
Today’s Gospel presents Jesus to us as the Good Shepherd, as our shepherd. The purpose of this image is to illustrate how close our relationship to Jesus is. We belong to him. It is his job and his desire to care for us and he does this personally. Just as the shepherd knows the names of each of his sheep, so Jesus knows the names of each of us.
Jesus knows Veronica, a dignified woman, now seventy-nine years old. During her career, she worked as the Executive Secretary for a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. People said that it was Veronica that kept the company together. Veronica comes to mass every Sunday, dressed in smart business attire, slightly out of date, but always spotless and carefully pressed. She greets other parishioners politely, and then takes her place in the third row on the left side of the church. After mass, Veronica goes home and sits in loneliness for the rest of the week. Since her husband died, she has no real relationships in her life. Her two daughters seldom call. Her business friends have all moved away. Time moves slowly for Veronica. She is caught between depression and despair. She is not sure how much longer she can hold on. Jesus sees the danger that Veronica is in because she belongs to him. He is already working to find a way to lead her to safety.
Jesus knows Brian, a successful orthopedic surgeon at a major U.S. hospital. Nothing is more important to Brian than his family. Today he is shaken because he just ended a phone call with his youngest son, newly graduated from college, who announced to him that he is having a sex change operation and has asked Brian from now on to address him as “Christine”. Brian sits with his head in his hands, repeating over and over, “How did this happen? I did not see it coming. Should I have done something different? How will I explain this to my family? What will my friends say?” Brian knows that he wants to continue to love as a father, but now loving is different. Should he? Must he? Can he? Brian is confused and lost. Jesus sees that he is lost because Brian belongs to him. Jesus has already begun to lead Brian to new pastures.
Jesus knows Katie as she sits in her twelfth grade History class, trying to pay attention. Katie is distracted by the fact that she is pregnant by a boy who she broke up with over a month ago. Katie believes that she can be a good mother but she was planning a career first. In fact, she wants a law degree and has already applied to several colleges which could provide it. Last week her life was clear and had a goal. Now everything is up in the air. Katie keeps trying to find a balance between the guilt that she feels for becoming pregnant and the wonder that she feels because of the new life within her. She knows that she will have to make decisions. But can she make these decisions, and can she live with them? Katie is close to a panic. Jesus sees Katie’s panic because Katie belongs to him. He has already begun to lead her in and out and to bring her to salvation.
Whoever we are, we belong to Jesus. Whatever happens to us is his concern because he is our shepherd who has come, not to judge us nor neglect us nor lose us. He has come so that we may have life and have it more abundantly.