Fourth Sunday of Easter Reflection

John 10:11-18

The gospel reading, like the first reading from Acts 4, is about leadership. It has some resonance for me. When I was a child, my siblings and I used to spend our weekends and holidays herding the cows, just being with them and keeping them safe as they grazed on the edge of the roads around the Macedon-Gisborne district. We liked our cows, even if we didn't want to spend all day with them. Each one of our small herd had a name and a personality. They were ours. They knew us and we knew them. We weren't shepherds, but we came close to being an Australian equivalent of the good shepherd of the ancient world pictured in this gospel passage.

Strangely enough, for the earliest readers of John's gospel, the term 'good shepherd' was something of a contradiction in terms. Most shepherds were known to trespass on the property of others. They thus broke the law and were considered 'unclean' according to the Jewish purity laws. A positive image of the shepherd is nonetheless present in Israel's prophetic tradition. The leaders were expected to shepherd their people wisely. Those who failed to do so were castigated: "You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them (Ezekiel 34:4)." That was no way for leaders to act.

Veronica Lawson RSM