During the Easter period, the Church continues to remember and celebrate the Resurrection of her Lord. As the event is recalled, its truth is also applied to the Christian way of life. What does it mean for the believer that the Lord is Risen?
The Risen Lord calls his disciples to himself. He wishes to care for them and guide them through this life and into eternity. He wants them to know of his presence and love for them. In many respects, the Risen Christ resembles a good shepherd. And so, as the Church declares, “He is Risen,” so she is quick to declare, “He is the Good Shepherd.”
The title “Good Shepherd” is one that the Lord Jesus gave himself during his earthly ministry, as he was preparing his disciples to know him and trust him. The Lord teaches: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
In identifying himself as the Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus distanced himself from the hired men who allow the flock to be scared or scattered: “A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.”
As the Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus seeks to unite the fold and guide them along a safe and good path. He calls each of us by name. As members of his fold, we know his voice as a voice of comfort, kindness, and protection.
Through all the insecurities, uncertainties, and fears that surround our hearts, the Good Shepherd calls us back to our senses, back to hope, back to his peace. We are each invited to raise our hearts and respond to him, to run to him and seek his love.
For those who do not know the voice of the Good Shepherd, his call is a perpetual opportunity to come to know and encounter him. For those who recognize his voice, but aren’t sure who is calling them, it is also an opportunity to hear the voice and recognize the Good Shepherd. He invites all men and women to know of his pastoral love.
The Risen Christ has come and destroyed sin and death so that we might live. He offers us an abundance of life. Our task is to dispel the bad spirits in our hearts, and to dive into the grace and love that our Good Shepherd offers to us.
If we don’t know someone, we don’t know their intentions. We don’t know what they’re going to do to us. This is why strangers provoke fear, especially when they know our names. Regrettably, for many people in our world today, Jesus Christ is that stranger. They are frightened by the Risen Christ, the Good Shepherd who calls out to them because they do not know him yet.
Believers must be cautious that the Risen Christ does not become a stranger to them. As we are shepherded by him, so we are called to be shepherds ourselves.
The Lord Jesus sends us out into the world to be salt, light, and leaven. We must go to those who are scared and declare words of hope and peace. We are sent to those who are alone to be their friend. We are commissioned to go to the person who feels abandoned and accompany them. We must seek out those who have no love and show them a generous love. We are called to be shepherds.
The fallen world approaches the Gospel message with suspicion, considering it dangerous. But we know that this is a saving message. The path of the Good Shepherd is the path to happiness, virtue, and holiness. It is the path of love and the path to heaven. It is the only path that promises true peace. We can only live this life by dying to our own sinfulness and selfishness.
It is only this path that allows us to hear the Good Shephard and generously follow him.
Portions of today’s column come from Father Kirby’s book, Living in Peace (Our Sunday Visitor). Follow Father Jeffrey Kirby on Twitter: @fatherkirby