In today’s readings we see Our Lord described as the cornerstone on which the Church is built, the big brother who always watches out for us, and the Good Shepherd who not only was willing to lay his life down for us, but did. The common denominator of all these images is the charity of Our Lord and the important of building our own lives on that charity.
In today’s Gospel we see the concern Our Lord has for every soul, a concern he describes as like a shepherd toward his sheep. Throughout Church history this has been seen as “pastoral” concern for others, and in today’s First Reading we see the Good Shepherd has entrusted his sheep to Peter and the Apostles without relinquishing them so that their pastoral needs can continue to be met. Peter has made a great commotion in healing a crippled man who begged at one of the entrances to the Temple area for a long time. However, he does not take credit for it: he did it in the name of Jesus.
Just as Our Lord worked signs for the sake of the Gospel Peter has received the power and the authority to preach in the Lord’s name. Peter speaks today of Our Lord as the cornerstone: a stone essential to maintaining the stability of a structure. A sheep cannot take the place of a shepherd, which is why Our Lord remains the Good Shepherd, the key to pastorally caring for us, his sheep. The foundation of our pastoral well-being is his death and resurrection, and it continues to be so.
In today’s Second Reading we’re reminded that Our Lord laid down his life so that we could become not only his property, but his adopted brothers and sisters. In the Old Testament a treasured lamb is described as being like a daughter to her owner (cf. 2 Samuel 12:3), but John reminds us that God is not just our Father metaphorically. Our adoption as sons and daughters is thanks to the Son, our big brother. Just as he shows and ensures a pastoral concern for us, he also watches over us like a big brother should. As children of God the Father we should also respect and cherish God Our Big Brother who made it all possible.
Our Lord describes himself in today’s Gospel as the Good Shepherd. A good shepherd cares so much for his sheep that he is willing to lay down his life for them. A person hired to do such a job would just say “this is not in my contract” and abandon them. Even the owner of the sheep might write them off as a wolf drew close, thinking to himself, “I’m insured,” or “I’ll just need to write this off as a loss on my tax returns.” The Good Shepherd shares his life with his sheep. He’s not indifferent to their trials and sufferings, so he’s not indifferent to their death. He’d rather die first. That attitude goes beyond just business or even obligation: Jesus says he willingly lays down his life for us, his sheep. He cares about each one of us.
Our Lord is not just willing to lay down his life for us. He did. Let’s try to show our gratitude today by letting him lead us in humility wherever he wants to lead us, knowing it’ll always be toward more verdant pastures.
Readings: Acts 4:8–12; Psalm 118:8–9, 21–23, 26, 28–29; 1 John 3:1–2; John 10:11–18. See also 4th Sunday of Easter.