English Español Mary Immaculate
Catholic Church / Pacoima, CA

The Good Shepherd

Fourth Sunday of Easter

“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.” John 10:14-15

A Reflection from Pope Francis

We all know the image of the Good Shepherd that carries on his shoulders the lost sheep. From always this icon represents the attention of Jesus towards the sinners and the mercy of God that is not re-signed to losing any. The para-ble is narrated by Jesus to make us understand that his closeness to sinners should not scandalize, but on the contrary provoke in everyone a serious reflection on how we live our faith.

The narrative presents on the one hand the sinners who approach Jesus to listen to him and on the other side the doctors of the law, the suspicious scribes who distance themselves from Him because of their behavior.

These move away, because Jesus approaches sinners. These were proud, they were proud, they thought, they were righteous.
Our parable is developed in relation to three characters: the shepherd, the lost sheep and the rest of the flock. But who acts is only the shepherd, not the sheep. The pastor is the only true protagonist and everything depends on him. One question introduces the parable: “If someone has a hundred sheep and loses one, does not he leave the ninety-nine in the field and go and find the one that was lost until he found it?”

It is a paradox that leads one to doubt the action of the pastor: Is it wise to abandon the ninety-nine by one sheep? And also, not in the safety of a fold, but in the desert? According to biblical tradition, the desert is the place of death where it is difficult to find food and water, without protection and at the mercy of beasts and thieves. What can ninety-nine helpless sheep do? The paradox goes on to say that the shepherd, finding the sheep, “carries the burden on his shoulders, full of joy, and when he arrives at his house calls his friends and neighbors, and says: Rejoice with me.” Then, it seems that the shepherd does not return to the desert to look for the whole flock! Lying to-wards that one sheep seems to forget the other ninety-nine. But really it’s not so. The teaching that Jesus wants to give us is better said that no sheep can be lost. The Lord cannot resign himself to the fact that only one person can be lost.

The act of God is one of those who go in search of lost children to later celebrate and rejoice with everyone because he has found them. It is an unstoppable desire: not even the ninety-nine sheep can stop the shepherd and keep him in the fold. He could reason: “But, I take stock: I’m ninety-nine, I’ve lost one, but not so much is lost, right?” He goes to find that one, because each one is very important for Him and that one is the most needed, the most abandoned, the most discarded; and He goes there to look for it.

We are all warned: mercy towards sinners is the style with which God acts and this mercy. He is absolutely faithful: nothing and no one can keep him away from his will to salvation. God does not know our current culture of discarding, in God this does not fit. God does not discard any person; God loves everyone, seeks everyone … Everyone! One by one. He does not know this word “discard people”, because it is all love and all mercy.

The flock of the Lord is always on the way: he does not possess the Lord; we cannot hope to imprison him in our schemes and our strategies. The shepherd will be there where the lost sheep is. The Lord, then, must be sought where He wants to find us, not where we pretend to find Him!

In no other way can the flock be formed if not following the path traced by the shepherd’s mercy. While searching for the lost sheep, He prompts the ninety-nine to participate in the reunification of the flock. Then not only the sheep carried on his shoulders, but the whole flock will follow the shepherd to his house to party with the “friends and neighbors”.

We should reflect many times on this parable, because in the community there is always someone who is missing and has left the place empty. Sometimes this discourages and leads us to believe that it is an inevitable loss, a disease without remedy. And then we run the danger of locking ourselves inside a sheepfold, where there will not be the smell of the sheep, but the stench of closed! And Christians should not be closed because we will have the stench of things closed. Never! We must go out and close ourselves, in the small communities, in the parish, there, … but we “the just” …

This happens when the missionary impulse that leads us to find others is lack-ing. In the vision of Jesus there are definitely no lost sheep – this we must understand well – for God none is definitely lost. Never! Until the last moment, God seeks us. Think of the good thief; but only in Jesus’ vision is none definitively lost, but only sheep that are found.

The perspective therefore is all dynamic, open, stimulating and creative. It impels us to go out in search to start a path of fraternity. No distance can have the pastor away; and no flock can renounce the brother. Finding who has been lost is the joy of the shepherd and of God, but it is also the joy of the whole flock! We are all sheep found and gathered together by the mercy of the Lord, called to gather together the whole flock with Him! Thank you.

Readings for the Week

Monday: Acts 11:1-18; Ps 42:2-3; 43:3, 4; Jn 10:1-10
Tuesday: Acts 11:19-26; Ps 87:1b-7; Jn 10:22-30
Wednesday: 1 Pt 5:5b-14; Ps 89:2-3, 6-7, 16-17; Mk 16:15-20
Thursday: Acts 13:13-25: Ps 89:2-3, 21-22, 25, 27; Jn 13:16-20
Friday: Acts 13:26-33; Ps 2:6-11ab; Jn 14:1-6
Saturday: Acts 13:44-52; Ps 98:1-4; Jn 14:7-14
Sunday: Acts 9:26-31; Ps 22:26-28, 30-32; 1 Jn 3:18-24; Jn 15:1-8

Saints & Special Observances

Sunday: Fourth Sunday of Easter; Earth Day; World Day of Prayer for Vocations
Monday: St. George; St. Adalbert
Tuesday: St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen
Wednesday: St. Mark; Administrative Professionals Day
Friday: Arbor Day
Saturday: St. Peter Chanel; St. Louis Grignion de Montfort