The image of the Good Shepherd is the most common of the symbolic representations of Christ found in Early Christian art in the Catacombs of Rome, before Christian imagery could be made explicit. The form of the image showing a young man carrying a lamb round his neck was directly borrowed from the much older pagan kriophoros (see below) and in the case of portable statuettes like the most famous one now in the Pio Cristiano Museum, Vatican City (right), it is impossible to say whether the image was originally created with the intention of having a Christian significance. The image continued to be used in the centuries after Christianity was legalized in 313. Initially it was probably not understood as a portrait of Jesus, but a symbol like others used in Early Christian art, and in some cases may also have represented the Shepherd of Hermas, a popular Christian literary work of the 2nd century. However by about the 5th century the figure more often took on the appearance of the conventional depiction of Christ, as it had developed by this time, and was given a halo and rich robes, as on the apse mosaic in the church of Santi Cosma e Damiano in Rome, or at Ravenna (right). Images of the Good Shepherd often include a sheep on his shoulders, as in the Lukan version of the Parable of the Lost Sheep.
Allegory of Christ as the Good Shepherd, 3rd century.
From John 10:11-18
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who doesn’t own the sheep, sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep, and flees. The wolf snatches the sheep, and scatters them. The hired hand flees because he is a hired hand, and doesn’t care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and I’m known by my own; even as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will hear my voice. They will become one flock with one shepherd. Therefore the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down by myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. I received this commandment from my Father.
THE LITURGY OF THE WORD.
It is very important for us to read God’s Word slowly and reflectively. We are not reading it just to get information or answer questions; we must enable God’s Word to enter us just like liquid polish enters timber that is thirsty for nutrition. A good rule of thumb is to have a question like this in our mind……”Lord, what are you saying to ME in your Word today? Secondly, how can my life be changed, in order to allow God’s Word to find a Home in my being? Finally, as for special Feasts, Advent and Lent, the three Readings are in a sequence which has an underlying thread running through them. In Ordinary time, the First Reading, and the Gospel are bridged…so we generally look for the link. The Second Reading is continuous, and follows on to the next Sunday.
First Reading: Acts 4:8-12 This was written by St.Luke, and his Community
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter said: ‘Rulers of the people, and elders! If you are questioning us today about an act of kindness to a cripple, and asking us how he was healed, then I am glad to tell you all, and would indeed be glad to tell the whole people of Israel, that it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence today. This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone. For of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.’
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
(Let’s PAUSE and reflect upon this reading, and let us ask ourselves the two questions stated above. That is our PERSONAL response to the Word. This might take a few minutes, try not to rush it. The Psalm and Antiphon is the COMMUNITY response to God’s Word, a bit like a short and sweet Text Message)
Psalm: Ps 117:1. 8-9. 21-23. 26. 28-29
R. The stone rejected by the builders has become the corner stone.
Give thanks to the Lord for he is good,
for his love has no end.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in men:
it is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in princes. R.
I will thank you for you have given answer
and you are my saviour.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the corner stone.
This is the work of the Lord,
a marvel in our eyes. R.
Blessed in the name of the Lord
is he who comes.
We bless you from the house of the Lord;
I will thank you for you have given answer
and you are my saviour.
Second Reading: John 3:1-2
Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are. Because the world refused to acknowledge him, therefore it does not acknowledge us.
My dear people, we are already the children of God but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that when it is revealed we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Let’s PAUSE again after this Reading, and reflect on it like you did after the first Reading. The Community Acclamation follows and should be sung: e.g ALLELUIA, or PRAISE TO YOU LORD JESUS CHRIST KING OF ENDLESS GLORY. When we are present at our Sunday Eucharistic Celebration, the Alleluia or Praise be to you…should always be sung. Why? It’s a bit like singing Happy Birthday!
We never say it… 🙂
Gospel: John 10:11-18
‘I am the good shepherd:
the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep.
The hired man, since he is not the shepherd
and the sheep do not belong to him,
abandons the sheep and runs away
as soon as he sees a wolf coming,
and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep;
this is because he is only a hired man
and has no concern for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd;
I know my own
and my own know me,
just as the Father knows me
and I know the Father;
and I lay down my life for my sheep.
And there are other sheep I have
that are not of this fold,
and these I have to lead as well.
They too will listen to my voice,
and there will be only one flock
and one shepherd.
The Father loves me,
because I lay down my life
in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me;
I lay it down of my own free will,
and as it is in my power to lay it down,
so it is in my power to take it up again;
and this is the command I have been given by my Father.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
Reflection time again……. Can you see and hear the links, connecting the First Reading, Second Reading and the Gospel? After that, we are then ready for what is to follow…..
DEEP SEA DIVING INTO THE SCRIPTURES
If you have ever opened your eyes under water, or used a snorkel and face mask, or had the opportunity to use an aqualung, it is a very different world to explore isn’t it? I love snorkelling, and it is though the fish welcome you into their world. However, they need to be treated with respect, and one must be aware of ‘no-go’ zones especially where sharks are known to call that place, ‘home’ especially at meal times. So, this next section is going down into the Scriptures, which opens the pathway for us to be curious about The Word, and it will also develop an appetite in us to do this more often.
Focusing the word
Key words and phrases
I am the good shepherd.
Lays down his life for his sheep.
I know my own and my own know me.
There will be one flock and one shepherd.
For all the names in the world this is the only one by which we can be saved.
Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children.
Attune our minds to the sound of his voice, lead our steps in the path he has shown.
to the point
We are glad to acknowledge with John that ‘we are God’s children now’ and that ‘we shall be like him (Christ)’ (second reading). If we, too, are God’s children and are to ‘be like him’ then we, too, must be good shepherds who lay down our lives.
Connecting the Word
to the first reading and Pentecost
Already in these readings we are anticipating the mission of Pentecost. In the first reading we see ‘Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit,’ fulfilling Jesus’ commission to heal the sick and proclaim the good news.
to Catholic culture
The image of the Good Shepherd (pictures on our walls or statues on our mantels) is not only a promise of divine care and protection; it is also a call to Christian mission.
Understanding the Word
I lay down my life
This much-loved story of the Good Shepherd uses a number of different terms to describe both explicitly and implicitly the work of Jesus. Implicitly, though the hired hand leaves the sheep unprotected and allows the wolf to scatter them, the Good Shepherd protects the sheep and keeps them together. Explicitly, the Good Shepherd knows his sheep, he speaks to them so that they hear his voice, he leads them, he brings them together as one flock. But the most distinctive and characteristic work of the Good Shepherd is referred to five times in this Sunday’s brief passage: Jesus is the Good Shepherd who ‘lays down his life for the sheep.’ Such passionate care for the sheep flows directly from his relationship to the Father in two ways. First, the kind of relationship Jesus has with the Father is the same kind of relationship he has with his own: ‘I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father’ (10:14-15); just as Jesus is totally committed to the Father, he is given entirely to his own. Second, Jesus has received this command from the Father (10:18): this command embodies God’s will that humanity be saved through the Son’s obedience, even unto death (3:16; 12:49-50; 14:31). Jesus fulfils God’s saving plan for humanity by laying down his life in death. More than simply obeying a command, however, Jesus does this out of love for his friends: ‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (15:13).
The expression ‘lay down one’s life’ speaks of Jesus’ full participation in his own death-and-resurrection. No one takes his life from him, nor is he killed: he freely and with full authority lays it down. On the cross he is the one who determines, ‘It is finished,’ whereupon, ‘he handed over the spirit’ (19:30). Finally, ‘to lay down his life’ is equivalent to the expression ‘to be lifted up’ (see Lent 5), which succinctly summarises the entire paschal mystery – to lay down his life results in his exaltation.
A realhomile from Fr.Kevin Walsh
Dear One and All
A teacher’s role is to guide others from the unknown to the known. Jesus was a brilliant teacher, and His listeners would all have been familiar with the unique relationship which existed between a shepherd and his sheep.
A few years ago, I spent some time ministering in the Holy Land, and while there, I frequently drove English speaking Pilgrims around in a mini bus, visiting different Sacred Sites. On one occasion, we visited the Shepherd’s Cave, and as we got out of the bus, a Shepherd appeared over the brow of a hill, leading a dozen or more sheep. We just could not believe our luck! They were a bit different to our sheep in Australia, as they didn’t have as much wool on them as our Merinos – and they had black snouts. We all thought ‘What a great picture this would make to take home’, so we took our snaps, and as we began to move towards the Cave, the Shepherd came toward us smiling, that was nice, but then he began to shout and carry on, waving his crook at us, and yelling ‘Shekel, Shekel!’. He wanted money, but we only had American Dollars, and he could see that we weren’t going to pay him. So we all ran back to the Bus. I distinctly remember that I nearly went for six ( In Australia, that means I nearly fell down) We ran for our lives, and got into the Bus and here he was chasing us, and then while banging his Shepherd’s staff on the windows, shouting words we didn’t understand, I put the Bus in reverse by mistake….then with a crunch of the gears, we were gone……..We later found out that there are a few Shepherds in that area who have a special ‘look out’ where they can spot Tourist Buses coming up the road; we never knew that we had to pay him……
Now back to the Gospel! A good shepherd in Our Lord’s time knew every one of his sheep and their individual natures. It was somewhat like the way we know the nature of our pet Dog or Cat and in turn how they know our voices and show affection when they see us. However, Shepherds in Gospel times will stand with his sheep all day in the scorching heat, and at night they will sleep across the entrance to the cave to ensure their safety.
Notice in the Gospels, we hear that the Shepherd leads his sheep … he never drives them. He simply walks ahead, and they listen to his voice, and follow him wherever he goes. On the other hand, goats have to be driven … they won’t follow their goat-herd. It’s interesting to hear Jesus using the shepherd separating the sheep from the goats to describe the final judgment. In other words, separating those who followed, from those who needed to be driven. Worth thinking about!
One of the great scandals in history is the extent to which the Body of Christ has been so splintered. While a number of groups claim Christ as their shepherd, many deny the same right to those who do not walk in their way. But there is hope in the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel, where He declares that someday, there will be one fold and one shepherd. But this can happen only when we stress the need for unity … not necessarily conformity. What Jesus is saying is that we must listen and be open to others – Christians and non Christians – just as we would welcome a guest in our home.
In our Eucharistic Celebration that weekend, we pray that we may devote time to being attentive to the voice of our Good Shepherd, Christ the Lord, in prayer, through unexpected people and events … that we may put into action the stirrings of response from the Holy Spirit to be Christ’s living Word now and always.
Let us give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His love has no end.
God Bless you and your families and may we never forget each other in prayer.
OUR FAMILY PRAYER TIME………
This is a great opportunity to gather the Family in Prayer. Having a Prayer Setting really adds to and designates this time as a ‘special’ time together. You might like to have a nice coloured cloth on a coffee table, or on the centre of the Dining Room Table. You will need a candle, Crucifix, Bible …in the opened position, even at the Gospel of the Sunday, and maybe a flower. During Easter tide you might like to place some white and gold material on your devotional altar. You might like to create your own permanent ‘sacred space’ in your home, where the Word of God is open, and a small tee light within a fire proof glass, could awaken in the minds and hearts of your family of the ‘real presence’ of God in His Word. Prayer time needs to be able to engage as many of our senses as possible. The burning of some fragrant oil also can evoke in the minds of your family, ‘prayer time’. Someone in the family might like to be the leader of the intercessions, then other family members can share the prayers….everyone can be invited to join is spontaneous shared prayer…
Leader: We confidently pray for our needs to God through the Good Shepherd in the Holy Spirit.
+ That the loving relationships which bind members of the Church as the one body of the living Christ be strengthened. We pray to the Lord. Lord, hear our prayer.
+ That the salvation that comes through the Good Shepherds laying down his life be preached throughout the world. We pray to the Lord. Lord, hear our prayer.
+ That healing and patience be granted to the sick. We pray to the Lord. Lord, hear our prayer.
+ That being filled with the Holy Spirit characterise our own lives as we strive to be good shepherds. We pray to the Lord. Lord, hear our prayer.
+ Let’s think back over the past week, and what we have seen on the T.V News, Breaking News on our Mobile Phones and ipads….who are some of the people in our Global village or need our prayers? You might like to share some of these…………., we pray to the Lord. Lord, hear our prayer.
Leader: Loving God, your Son is the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for us: hear these our prayers that one day we might enjoy everlasting life with Jesus Christ your Son our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Blessing is taken from the Iona Abbey Sacramentary, Scotland.
Iona Abbey is located on the Isle of Iona, just off the Isle of Mull on the West Coast of Scotland. It is one of the oldest and most important religious centres in Western Europe. The abbey was a focal point for the spread of Christianity throughout Scotland and marks the foundation of a monastic community by St. Columba, when Iona was part of the Kingdom of Dál Riata.
Leader: The Cross
ALL WE SHALL TAKE IT.
ALL WE SHALL BREAK IT.
ALL WE SHALL BEAR IT.
ALL WE SHALL SHARE IT.
ALL WE SHALL LIVE IT.
ALL WE SHALL GIVE IT.
ALL WE SHALL CHERISH IT.
ALL WE SHALL PERISH IT. Amen.