1) Opening prayer
Lord God, our Father,
the Spirit of Jesus calls us, as He called your Son,
to abandon our old selves and our old world
to be free for new life and growth.Forgive us our fear and hesitations,
lead us out of our worn-out phrases and habits,
and our self-made certainties,
steep us in the gospel of Your Son,
that His good news may become credible
in our times and our world.
We ask you this through Christ our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - John 10:1-10
Jesus said: "Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers." Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them. So Jesus said again, "Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly."
• In Jesus we have the model of the true shepherd. In Him is fulfilled the expectation of the Good Shepherd promised by God: the “Great Shepherd”, greater than Moses (Hb 13:20).
• John 10:1-6: The gate of the sheepfold. In Jn 10:1-10 it is said that Jesus is the “gate” to get to the sheep and to be led to the pastures (10:7.9-10). The image of the gate has several connotations. A gate protects what is inside, the sheep, from the evils outside. The gate is what keeps the sheep in community together inside. The gate is also the way into this community of sheep (the Church).
The theme of the sheep had already been introduced in John 2:15 and in a particular way in 5:2 where it is told that there was a pool with five porticos along which were laid the sick to be healed. In this last context, the sheep indicate the people who were oppressed by their leaders. In Jn 10:1, Jesus links the theme of the sheep to the atrium or inner courtyard of the Temple, the Jewish institution administered by men of power who trampled on the rights, justice and exploited the people. Such individuals were called by Jesus “thieves and bandits”.
Jesus begins His long presentation before the Pharisees, who were closed up in their unbelief and insufficiency (9:40-41), with a general affirmation: the proper way to enter into contact with the sheep is by entering through the gate of the enclosure in which they are kept. Anyone who enters in a different way is not motivated by love for the sheep, but is there to exploit them for his own interest. This is the sin of those who direct the people: to take hold of everything that belongs to all for themselves. Jesus uses the term “thief”. This was precisely the accusation that Jesus addressed to the chief priests of the people during His first visit to the Temple (2:13ss).
Another term that Jesus uses to indicate those who take away from the people what belongs to them is: “bandit”. Such a term indicates those who use violence. Therefore, the chief priests of the Temple oblige the people to submit themselves to the violence of their system (7:13; 9:22). The effect of this is that it produces a state of death (5:3.21.25).
The shepherd enters through the gate to take care of the sheep, not to oppress them or maltreat them. In fact, the sheep recognize his authority (voice) and follow him. The voice of Jesus contains a message of liberation for them that is typical of the Messiah. Besides, His voice is not addressed to an anonymous group of people, but rather calls each one personally. For Jesus, no anonymous crowd of people exists. Each person has a face, a name, and dignity. The Temple (the enclosure of the sheep) has become a place of darkness, characterized only by economic interests; money has replaced the exclusive attention to God: the Temple has become a business or trading house (Jn 2:16).
Jesus leads the people to take them out of darkness. He does not do this in a fictitious way, but in a real way, because this is the work which the Father has entrusted to Him. The fundamental strokes of this mission are: to enter and to call. Those who respond to that call, the call to liberty, become a new community: “Those who are His own”.
• John 10:7-10: Jesus is the new door. Jesus again uses the symbolism of the gate in vv. 7-8: applying it to Himself. He is the new door not only in regard to the old enclosure of Israel represented by the chief priests of the people, but also in regard to those who follow Him. He reminds the first ones of His legitimacy - the only place of access for the sheep because He is the Messiah ready to give His life for the sheep. It is not by domination that one can approach the sheep to have a relationship with them, but rather by the attitude of one who gives his life for them. His words are an invitation to change mentality, the way of thinking, and way of relating.
The entrance through Jesus signifies the good of man as a priority. Anyone who attempts to do the contrary is an oppressor. The reader finds that the words of Jesus addressed to His contemporaries, and in a particular way to the chief priests of the people who have used domination and violence to exploit the people, truly hard and strong.
He is the new gate in regard to every person. But for men and women of today, what does it mean to enter through the door which is Jesus? It implies to “get close to Him”, “to trust Him” (Jn 6:35), to follow Him, and to allow ourselves to be guided by His message (8:31. 51). It means to participating in the dedication of Jesus so that the true happiness of man may be accomplished.
4) Personal questions
• Jesus is the Good Shepherd because He always knows you, but do you recognize him? He is a Shepherd who comes to your life as a door to go out and to enter: do you allow Him to lead you when you relate with others?
• In the world today, are there bad shepherds who exploit those looking to surrender themselves to Jesus as sheep of the fold? Can we discern this by looking at the lives of these so-called shepherds and whether they are profiting from the trust given them?
• Who would you say are proper shepherds today? Do you see the distinction in their lives and their total giving to their sheep (communities) as a way of discernment?
• In your community and in your family are you also a door? Are you a door that is open to guiding others in, are you a door that seeks to protect what is inside, or are you a door which keeps others out and closed off?
5) Concluding Prayer
Lord, send out Your light and Your truth;
they shall be my guide,
to lead me to Your holy mountain
to the place where You dwell. (Ps 43:3)