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What It Means that Jesus Is the Good Shepherd

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Fr. James Farfaglia - published on 05/09/14

Jesus doesn’t just call us to virtue, he shows us the way.

The main part of the Holy Land was a large central plateau about 35 miles long.  The ground was for the most part rough and rocky.  It was impossible for sheep just to stay in one area for grazing.  Large areas for grazing simply did not exist.  Every flock had to have a shepherd who led his flock every day to places where the sheep could eat.  

The life of a shepherd was very difficult.  A flock of sheep never grazed without his presence and therefore, the shepherd was on duty every day of the week.  Since the sheep always had to travel in order to find grass to eat, they were never left alone.  Sheep could get lost, or they could be attacked by wolves or stolen by robbers.  

Sheep were seldom used for regular food by the people of the Holy Land; rather sheep were cultivated for the use of their wool.  Thus, the shepherd was with his sheep for a very long time.  He gave each one of them a name, and they all knew his voice.  In fact, it is said that each shepherd had a peculiar way of speaking to the sheep that allowed them to know that he was their shepherd.

During the warm weather, it was common for the sheep to spend the night away from the village farm.  The shepherd watched over them throughout the night.  In these circumstances, the sheep stayed in open areas surrounded by a low rock wall.  In these areas, the sheep entered and left through an open space which had no door or gate of any kind.  During the night, the shepherd would sleep stretched out within the empty space so that no sheep could get out except by crossing over his body.  At the same time, a wolf or a robber could not get in, except by crossing over his body as well.  Here we can see a prime example of how the shepherd would give his life for his sheep.  “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10.10)  

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  The Easter Season is a continual celebration of the one central mystery of Christianity; that Jesus gave his life for us by dying on the Cross.  He saved us from our sins.  “He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.  By his wounds you have been healed.  For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls” (1 Peter 2: 24).

We all know that getting directions from someone when we are lost can be a frustrating experience.  Perhaps you scramble for a piece of paper to scribble a few indications like "go right at the light and then take your first left.”  Maybe the person who gives you directions is wrong, and instead of a right, you should have taken a left.  

Sometimes you come across a kind person who says "Come, I will take you there.”  In this case, the person is the way and you cannot go wrong.

Jesus tells us that he is the way.  Jesus does not give us advice and directions; he takes us by the hand and leads us to eternal life in heaven.  He does not tell us about the way, he is the way.

Christianity is essentially different from all other religions because the Christian does not merely follow a series of rules and regulations, nor does he submit himself to a guru’s indications of how to live certain austere principles.  

Christianity is not about a what, but about a whom.  Ultimately, Christianity is about relationship and of course, the greatest relationship of all.    Christianity is about a relationship with the best friend anyone could ever have; i.e., Jesus Christ.  

Married couples, boyfriends and girlfriends and even dear friends understand what relationship is all about.  True friendship is true personal love. True friendship is not based upon an arrangement of rules.  Friendship goes much deeper than this.  Friendship is a relationship.

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