Fourth Sunday of Easter – Year B

In 1953 during the Korean War, the communist army decided to drive thousands of people across the country in freezing cold weather.  Very many of them died along the way, it was called the Lydda death march.  The stronger ones tried to help the weaker ones. Among them was a Bishop, he was young, strong, and healthy; and people remembered later, that when they looked at him, he was always carrying someone on his back. There are people like that today, who are driven by something inside, and they try to help the weaker ones, as if they were a shepherd for the weaker ones.  Today we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Easter or Good Shepherd Sunday. This image of the Good Shepherd is one of the most beautiful images we have in our Christian tradition. We have all seen pictures and statues of a young beardless man holding a sheep over his shoulders. This image was very relevant and common for the agrarian culture of the 1st century. In the gospel of St. John, we read that the Good Shepherd is one who knows his sheep; one who speaks to them; and they know his voice; one who walks before them, but especially one who lays down his life for his sheep. A good shepherd is always other oriented, willing to share his life that others might live. When we see Jesus dying on the cross, we see the good shepherd laying down his life for his sheep, dying, to bring them home.  One of the most beautiful aspects of the good shepherd, is his love for the lost sheep.  When we stray from Jesus, Jesus does not let us go, but like a broken-hearted mother or father, searching for a lost child, he searches for us; even though it may take years, he never gives up.  Jesus never gives up on us, no matter how long we have given up on Him.  When we realize how much he loves us, we are motivated to love him in return.  Then we too become shepherds, because of his love for us, we too learn to help the weaker ones to keep going; the fallen ones to get back on their feet, the lost ones to find their way home.  In this way, we participate in the great mission of the good shepherd. Many years ago in America, a lady called Harper Lee wrote a very beautiful book, that was very successful and was read in schools all over the country – “To Kill a Mockingbird’.  It tells the story of a young Afro-American boy who is accused of a serious crime.  He is poor, everyone is against him.  It’s a lost case.  Who will defend him? Finally, a lawyer turns up, Atticus Finch, who is prepared to defend him. Some of you may be lawyers but most of us are not.  This does not mean that we are not called to take a stand, to defend the weak.  Perhaps not in a courtroom or on a battle field, but in our daily lives, In our conversations with our family, work colleagues; when we see someone is being criticised, or unfairly treated, or humiliated.  Then it is time for us to take a stand; put in a good word.  This is what Jesus the good shepherd did.  He is the defense attorney we can all call on and he will never fail us. There is a wonderful consoling thought, when the time comes for us to go, who will come to bring us home?  That same good shepherd who laid down his life for us on the cross, he will come, he will put us on his shoulders, and carry us home to that place that he has prepared for us.  Can we imagine a more beautiful thought?