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The Fullness of Love

I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep (Jn 10:11-15).



A reflection from Father Tudgay for the Fourth Sunday of Easter.


As we continue to journey through the Easter Season, the Gospel passage famously given to us this weekend from Saint John’s Gospel draws us deeply into the heart of Jesus. The imagery of the shepherd in reference to God’s disposition of heart would have been a familiar one to those who heard Jesus preach and teach. Throughout the Old Testament, the concept of a shepherd in reference to God communicated the role of an overseer, or ruler. In the Old Testament, the shepherd was the one who held things together. The shepherd was the glue of the flock, entrusted with keeping his sheep together in line on behalf of another. 

 

But we know that Jesus’ identity as the Good Shepherd isn’t limited to something practical, like being the one who holds things together. There’s another dimension that Jesus introduces to this familiar image…the notion of sacrifice on behalf of the flock. In this passage, Jesus reveals another Old Testament image that prefigures his mission: that he, himself, is the Paschal Lamb whose blood will be shed to bring salvation. Suddenly, in Jesus’ teaching, there are two profound themes that coalesce: that the one Christ is both the shepherd who leads his sheep and the lamb who sheds his blood. 

 

These images that Christ brings together, which prefigure his mission and the mantle of discipleship that follows, remind us of the depths of his love. In his suffering, death, and resurrection, all of creation is redeemed and those who receive his new life through the Church’s sacramental life, experience this love. The Gospel passage this weekend teaches us that real love always involves sacrifice and that any and all sacrifice that we make is fruitful for us, individually, and for those around us. Tempted to go astray, Christ always draws us back to the loving embrace of the Father, in whom we have forgiveness of our sins and eternal life! 

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