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Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Shepherd and the Sheep

Homily - 4th Sunday of Easter
John 10: 1-10

To understand the parable of the sheep and the gate, it is helpful to trace our steps back two thousand years into the time of Christ, to the time of sheep, shepherds, and watering holes.

During the time of Jesus in the land of Palestine, during the evening, the shepherds would bring the sheep down from the hills to protect them at night when the wolves and mountain lions were hunting their prey. At night, the shepherds would gather their sheep together and lead them into large pens. These large pens were called sheepfolds. These sheepfolds or sheep pens had large walls which were made out of rocks. The walls of the sheep pens were about five feet high. On the top of the four stone walls were briars or prickly branches. The shepherds put the prickly briars along the top of the wall, as it was like our barbed-wire of today. The result was that the mountain lions and wolves couldn’t get inside the sheep pen. The door way was about two feet wide. …not wide at all. It was a small entry. It was like one small gap in the wall. So I ask you: What was the door made out of?

  • Was the door made out of wood that a carpenter had constructed?
  • Was it made out of wool, a wool blanket that a weaver had woven?
  • Was it made out of stones that the shepherd had piled up?
  • Was it made of out sticks, all laced together to form a barrier?
  • Was it made out of leather, a hide from the sheep?
  • Was it made out of linen, like a linen cloth hanging there in the gap in the wall?
What was the door made out of?

Actually there was no door!

The shepherd himself was the door, the gate. At night, the shepherd would sleep in the small opening of the rock wall. He would sleep there, by the fire, with his rod and staff. If a mountain lion would come, the shepherd would fight it off with his weapons, his short stocky club, or his long pointed staff. Literally and actually, the shepherd himself was the gate.Therefore, the meaning of this parable of Jesus is unlocked when we start to think of Jesus himself as being the gate.

He also mentioned that whoever does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but tries to climb over elsewhere, is a thief and a robber.

Is he trying to say that there is no other way?

·         No short cuts?
·         No easy way?
·         No cutting corners?

I think so! It is in knowing Christ, serving Christ, and following Christ that we can have a meaningful and abundant life. He teaches us that to follow him we must also recognize his voice. And since most of us will never hear his voice audibly, we better learn to identify the other ways he speaks to us. The ordinary way that most of us will hear and recognize him will be in our prayers. So, we must ask ourselves: have we developed a prayer life that will allow us to hear him? So often he speaks in the quiet of our hearts and our minds. Have we developed a method of prayer that also allows our mind and our hearts to rest in peaceful quiet? If our life is in a state of constant distraction, constant stimulation, and endless external activities, how will we ever hear his voice?

I have come to know that to hear his voice, and to hear it clearly, it is in the quiet that it can be recognized. And since God often uses situations, events, and encounters to speak to us, we should reflect upon our daily events each night. It is in that prayerful reflection, that meditation, that examination of conscience, that he so often speaks to us, guides us, and inspired us. I was once told that we should imagine Jesus walking through our mind holding a candle. He will gently point the candle toward a though or idea, illuminating it, and drawing quiet attention toward it. However, if we aren’t paying attention, it will go unnoticed and his voice will never be heard.

So let us not only make room for Christ in our lives, but let us also make a decision to enter the sheepfold.

We will enter and follow our shepherd, Our Lord and savior.
We will not look for the easy way, nor will we try to take short cuts.
We will make time of quiet in our lives to get to know him, listen to him, and follow him.

By entering the sheepfold, following Christ, we will be protected from the world, the devil, and those mountain lions and wolves. Jesus is the only door, the only gate, and the only way that we must travel and pass through, to gain eternal life and a life worth living.

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