4th Sunday of Easter, Year C

Acts 13:14.43-52; Rev. 7:9.14-17; Jn 10:27-30

In Today’s Gospel, Jesus the Good Shepherd says to us, ‘I know my sheep. They listen to my voice and follow me. Let us listen to the meaning and implication of this statement/remark in our lives. 

In our Gospel Jesus says ‘I know my sheep. They listen to my voice and follow me’. Unfortunately, we live in a world today where unfortunately the sheep, especially the lambs, are often snatched away and done to death. But it is a world where there is more need than ever of the good shepherd. Everything today tends to be big and centralized. It doesn’t make knowing and caring easy, for everything is so impersonal. Often in this context, people and hired and promoted for efficiency, and not for the love and care that they are capable of showing.

Today the good shepherd is unlikely to face a pack of wolves. But he or she may have to face something worse, a gang of thugs, butchers and snipers and gunners. Some of us may have known or heard of a man called Philip Lawrence. He was the headmaster of St. George’s Catholic School in London between the early and mid-nineties. On December 1995, he was stabbed outside his school while trying to protect one of his pupils who was being attacked by a gang and died as a result of his wounds. He was voted ‘personality of the year’ by the listeners to BBC Radio 4, today’s programme. He received 23,130 votes ahead of John Major, the then prime minister who polled 18,260. His wife was so touched that she said ‘it is nice to know that people still recognize the greatness of an act like that. And it is nice to know that someone can do such an act and look on it as something normal and natural. Recently, about two weeks ago, another hero did it in Virginia Tech, a Professor of Jewish Origin who used himself as a shield against the gunman, so that his students could escape to safety. He staked his life for others, for people whom he was shepherding in some sense.

Philip Lawrence and this American Jew were model shepherds to their students. It was unthinkable for them to allow their students to be killed or harmed without intervening. They are good reminders to us of what true loving means and what it costs. It is not enough to love the young, they must know that they are loved. This applies not just to schools but families, relationships, and indeed every facet of life. Those who follow the way of love open themselves to the possibilities of greater happiness than they have ever known and of greater pain too.  The great spiritual writer ‘Carlo Carretto says, ‘there is nothing terrible about suffering a bit on earth if it has taught us how to love.

About the middle of the twentieth century, St. John Bosco began to work for the poor and endangered youth in the Italian City of Turin. The young people soon realized that in him, they have a true friend. They so loved him that once when he got ill, they stormed heaven with their prayers. Some of them would prefer to die in place of Don Bosco. Eventually, John Bosco recovered. This kind of bond cannot exist unless there were a closeness and closeness involves knowing and being known. Jesus the Good Shepherd says ‘I know my Sheep’.  This is one major thing that is lacking in our relationships today.  There is sadness in not knowing people.

In today’s world, children rarely know their parents and parents rarely know their children. There is a big gap and suspense always existing in our relationships.   To know takes time and efforts but always bears good and lasting fruits. When people don’t know themselves, a great loss results. Time passes so quickly.  You can’t truly love someone you don’t know.  Knowing is very important for all people.

Perhaps it is the fear of rejection that makes us not to dare to reveal ourselves to our children and also that makes children not to reveal themselves and their struggles to us. We fear that if people know our imperfections, they will reject us. How can we form a bond of love with children if we keep our distance from them? How can our parents love us if we keep running away from them? If we keep our distance from our children, can we blame them if they, in turn, keep their own distance and world from us and if as a result, they distrust us? We are all invited to have the heart of Christ, to find an outlet for love and for reaching out, starting with our immediate environments, our families, relationships and friends. 

- By Fr. Innocent Abonyi, MSP

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