How to be a shepherd
I am the gate for the sheep.
All who came before me are thieves and robbers,
but the sheep did not listen to them.
These are beautiful words in today's Gospel (John 10:1-10) and yet it is easy to become a little confused about that last part. Is our Lord really saying that all who came before him – e.g., Moses and David and Isaiah - were “thieves and robbers?”
The very first verse of this chapter puts us on the path to clarify what our Lord is saying:
Whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate
but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber."
The bottom line is that Christ is the shepherd and we are his sheep.
Christ may enable us in different ways to participate in his shepherding of the sheep, but all of us remain forever sheep – we are all Christ’s sheep.
Anyone who tries to shepherd Christ’s sheep apart from Christ – who does not enter through Christ the Gate - is a thief and a robber: even if we are just trying to shepherd ourselves alone, for none of us really belong to ourselves – we are all Christ’s sheep.
It is Christ alone who leads us in infinitely right paths, for he is the gate, the way, the truth and the life.
It is Christ alone who leads us along the blessedly peaceful waters, for from him alone do eternally living waters flow.
It is Christ alone who sets the most wonderful banquet before us, for he is the Bread of Life.
Moses, David, Isaiah, and all the holy leaders of God’s people – insofar as they abided in the Lord and shepherded rightly – participated in God’s shepherding of the sheep in various mysterious ways, but something would remain fundamentally lacking until the Incarnation of Christ in the fullness of time.
In Christ, true God and true man, humanity recognizes the true voice for which it was created and destined to hear.
In our own time, we have shepherds among us – from the Bishop of Rome to the pastor of our local congregation – who participate explicitly in Christ’s shepherding of the flock – insofar as they have received and follow the mandate of Christ and they abide in him.
Sometimes we don’t like our shepherds. Sometimes it’s because some of them shepherd imperfectly and sometimes it’s because we don’t like being sheep, but we are all Christ’s sheep (and the shepherds among us need to be the most “sheepish” of us all).
We need always to appreciate that we are sheep, that we are Christ’s sheep, that Christ calls forth shepherds from among us, and that none of us can rightly shepherd even ourselves apart from Christ.
We need always to listen for the voice of Christ the shepherd and pray for all who in any way share in Christ’s shepherding: for ourselves and those who shepherd us for Christ.
(adapted from an earlier post)