Year A: Fourth Sunday of Easter
Gospel: John 10: 1-10
The relationship between sheep and their shepherd is not one we give much thought to today. We may watch films - and marvel at the skill of shepherds with their sheep-dogs - but we are not as familiar as the people of Jesusí day with the ways of sheep-keeping.
At a time when there were wolves - and no shortage of sheep-thieves - the sheep-fold was a place of safety. The gate through which they entered and which closed behind them was their guarantee of safety. As we see from the television programmes and films, not every sheep realises this - and there is always at least one who makes a break for it - and, sheep being sheep, quite often the rest follow it!
In time, though, where the sheep grow accustomed to the shepherd, they do grow to know his or her voice. The shepherd is the one up all night in the lambing-shed - they are the ones who check their feet and fleeces - the ones who handle the sheep and talk to them become familiar figures - and a kind of trust begins to develop between sheep and shepherd.
Jesus is the perfect shepherd - but also refers to Himself as the gate to the sheepfold. Not only does He know His sheep and care for them, He is also their security against those who would do them harm.
Others come, but the sheep know that they are not to be trusted - their first instinct is to run away. We may also remember Jesusí words about wolves coming in sheepís clothing. There are many around who will deceive - and it is not always easy to determine who is safe and who is not.
Jesusí words are our guide: anyone who enters the sheepfold through Him will be safe. Not only will they be safe within the fold - they will also be safe outside it. The sheep no longer need to fear those who come to seek and destroy - for Jesus has come to give life in all its fullness to those who know Him as their Good Shepherd.
What does it mean for me?
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