Monday, April 18, 2005

Christ the Good Shepherd

I am the good shepherd. I know my own
- by which I mean, I love them -
and my own know me.

In plain words:
those who love me are willing to follow me,
for anyone who does not love the truth
has not yet come to know it.

My dear brethren,
you have heard the test we pastors have to undergo.
Turn now to consider
how these words of our Lord imply a test for yourselves also.
Ask yourselves whether you belong to his flock,
whether you know him,
whether the light of his truth shines in your minds.

I assure you
that it is not by faith that you will come to know him,
but by love;
not by mere conviction,
but by action.

John the evangelist is my authority for this statement.
He tells us that
anyone who claims to know God
without keeping his commandments
is a liar.

Consequently, the Lord immediately adds:
As the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I lay down my life for my sheep.

Clearly he means
that laying down his life for his sheep
gives evidence of his knowledge of the Father
and the Father’s knowledge of him.
In other words,
by the love with which he dies for his sheep
he shows how greatly he loves his Father.

Again he says:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them;
they follow me, and I give them eternal life.

Shortly before this he had declared:
If anyone enters the sheepfold through me
he shall be saved;
he shall go freely in and out
and shall find good pasture.

He will enter into a life of faith;
from faith he will go out to vision,
from belief to contemplation,
and will graze in the good pastures of everlasting life.

So our Lord’s sheep will finally reach their grazing ground
where all who follow him in simplicity of heart
will feed on the green pastures of eternity.

These pastures are the spiritual joys of heaven.
There the elect look upon the face of God
with unclouded vision
and feast at the banquet of life for ever more.

Beloved brothers,
let us set out for these pastures
where we shall keep joyful festival
with so many of our fellow citizens.
May the thought of their happiness urge us on!

Let us stir up our hearts, rekindle our faith,
and long eagerly for what heaven has in store for us.
To love thus is to be already on our way.

No matter what obstacles we encounter,
we must not allow them to turn us aside
from the joy of that heavenly feast.
Anyone who is determined to reach his destination
is not deterred
by the roughness of the road that leads to it.

Nor must we allow the charm of success to seduce us,
or we shall be like a foolish traveller who is so distracted
by the pleasant meadows through which he is passing
that he forgets where he is going.
From a homily on the Gospels
by Saint Gregory the Great, pope

(from yesterday's Office of the Readings)