Daily Reading for May 15 • The Fourth Sunday of Easter
There is no image of the Saviour as exploited by Christian art as that of the Good Shepherd. However, it too often puts before us an idyllic, somewhat effeminate figure, with insipid colours—in short, something very different from the rough, nomadic shepherd who inspired the words of Christ and who, alone, faces the wild beasts and the harshness of the climate. For the Christians of the first centuries, the image of the shepherd summed up the whole work of salvation, it embellished all the catacombs; at that epoch it was what the image of the Crucified is for the faithful of our days. . . .
Christ defines himself as shepherd: “I am the good shepherd.” . . . For his audience it is a known image. “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God” (Ezekiel 34:15). Like all the Johannine passages with “ego eimi” (“I am”), Jesus presents himself in chapter 10 as the Lord in history. “I am the good shepherd” has here the value of a solemn, theophanic discourse. The shepherd, Christ, is the one to whom the Father has confided those who are his. “They were yours,” says Christ in the sacerdotal prayer in John 17, “you gave them to me” (John 17:6). . . . By proclaiming himself the Good Shepherd, Jesus professes that he assumes without reserve the responsibility for those who are entrusted to him. Always new, this proclamation assures us of the unfailing presence of the Saviour. He is the Good Shepherd. Let us read this Gospel as his word addressed, here and now, to us.
From “The Good Shepherd” in From Advent to Pentecost: Carthusian Novice Conferences by a Carthusian, translated by Carmel Brett (Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian Publications, 1999).