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Christ, the Good Shepherd

I am the good shepherd, says the Lord; I know my sheep and mine know me.

"Jesus said: ‘The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.’" Christ Himself is the Good Shepherd, who knows each one of His sheep, who gives His life for them and snatches them from the jaws of the marauding wolf. He is the true shepherd who fulfills Ezekiel's prophecy foretelling for Israel a shepherd from the end of time who was to deliver his people.

Christ's sheepfold is the Church. In the Church He bestows on us His life in the Sacraments, His word in the teaching that she gives us, all the riches of His grace to light up our way and uphold our steps as we go forward to our heavenly home; through her He acts as the one Shepherd of our souls. Appointed to lead the flock, Peter gave his life for those entrusted to his care, and ever since then the priestly ministry has assured the continuous presence in the Church of Him who remains the true Shepherd of our souls.

Jesus intended the beautiful parable of the Good Shepherd with its many consoling truths and promises for men of every century, including the twentieth. We are all too prone to evaluate the words of the Gospel in an exclusively historical sense. The liturgy's primary aim is to portray the present, not the past, to give grace and life along with history. You must, therefore, give the parable a present day context, apply it personally. After each sentence stop and say: Christ is doing this today — and to help me. The parable brings to our attention three consoling truths: Christ gives His life for His sheep; He remains with them constantly through the bond of grace; He will not rest content until there be but one flock and one shepherd.

Christ's body in the Eucharist gives flesh to His words in the Gospel. Never disjoin one from the other. For together they constitute our most valuable earthly treasure, together they give us the whole Christ. What He promises in the Gospel He fulfills in the Eucharist. And thus the Mass, comprising the word and the body of Christ, brings Him completely to us. In the Gospel He says, "I am the Good Shepherd"— in the Eucharistic Sacrifice the Good Shepherd becomes present. In the Gospel He proclaims, "I lay down My life for My sheep"—in the Eucharistic Sacrifice He pours His life into our souls. In the Gospel He tells us, "I know Mine and Mine know Me"—in the Eucharistic Sacrifice He fulfills His claim: Whoever eats My flesh abides in Me and I in Him. In the Gospel He says, "Other sheep I have ... them also must I bring"—through the Eucharistic Sacrifice He builds up His flock, gathering stray sheep into the fold.

These, then, are our two greatest treasures, Christ's words and Christ's body. By embracing both we embrace our Savior whole and entire.

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