We have a religious sensibility which informs and guides how we relate to God. I think it is most common for us to believe that since God has made us, and that God is all-perfect and all-powerful, then our part in the relationship with Him, “our part of the deal,” is that we are made to serve Him. As an imperfect and limited creature, it is my duty and responsibility to serve the perfect and infinite Creator. It makes sense and it is certainly a central part of our faith that we are to serve, but our service, because of Jesus Christ, is no longer simply based on God’s greatness and our meekness. Rather, our desire to serve the Lord emerges from the recognition and growing awareness that God in Christ has, in fact, come to serve us. There are many things in our faith that are hard to comprehend. This, however, that God serves us, is perhaps one of the most difficult. Saint Peter, in the Second Reading, wrote, “He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.” Since we were children, we’ve been taught by our families and teachers in Sunday school that Jesus died for our sins. Our understanding of what this teaching means can be helped by this week’s Gospel of Jesus the Shepherd.
In the Gospel from Saint John, we hear the Lord describe himself as a shepherd. He also contrasts the shepherd from a thief and bandit. The thief come to steal, to exploit another for one’s own gain. A bandit comes to steal but, in addition, does so with violence. A bandit often does bodily harm. The shepherd, however, does neither of these and so the shepherd is familiar to the sheep and is thus trusted by them. Jesus says that the shepherd calls them by name and they follow him because they know his voice. The shepherd goes ahead of the sheep and will be the first to encounter danger. He protects them. At the end of the passage, Christ says, “a thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” The Lord is telling us that he has come because of us. He has come to serve us. When he “bore our sins in his body upon the cross” he reveals the way things truly stand between ourselves and God. We may think that humanity is a “lost cause,” that we are really nothing but a failure for God. We remember the Fall of Adam and Eve, the injustice and cruelty in history and our own transgressions from God’s commands. We may in response “throw up our hands” in frustration and futility. We may wonder, “What’s the point?” The point is that another voice is speaking. And we know the voice and know, deep down, the voice is true. It is God speaking to us. Christ the Good Shepherd has come to serve us. He has come, through his life, death and resurrection, to bear our sins in his body on the cross. By looking at him on the cross, we cannot help but understand – understand that we are loved forever by God. The psalmist wrote, the “Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want . . . my cup overflows.” No matter what has happened or will happen in our lives, especially during these days of isolation, we do not want and our cup very much overflows because in Christ, God has us and we have him. And that’s exactly how God wants it.
God Bless and take care,