Year B – 4th Sunday of Easter

Year B - 4th Sunday of Easter

To Be a Good Shepherd

(Acts 4:8-12; 1Jn.3:1-2; Jn.10:11-18)

Today, on Good Shepherd Sunday, we’re reminded that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who truly cares for his flock.

He knows each of His sheep by name, and He loves them so much that He’s even prepared to sacrifice His life for them.

In one way or another, we are all called be good shepherds, caring for others as best we can – in our families, at work, at school and in our communities. Many of us do this in the ordinary course of our lives, but sometimes it can be a confronting challenge.

Someone who discovered this for himself was Martin Luther King, who led the American civil rights movement in the 1960s. To give hope to millions of downtrodden black Americans, he organised peaceful protests, including the March on Washington in 1963.

He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, and today he’s recognised as a man of extraordinary strength and courage. But it was not always so.

He once wrote, “One night… I settled into bed late… and just as I was about to doze off, the telephone rang. An angry voice on the other end of the line said, ‘Listen nigger, we’ve taken all we want from you; before next week you’ll be sorry you ever came to Montgomery.’

“I hung up…and sleep would not come. It was as if all my fears coalesced into one giant terror. I got out of bed and began to walk the floor.

“Finally I went to the kitchen and made a pot of coffee. I was ready to give up. With my cup of coffee sitting untouched before me, I tried to think of a way to move out of the picture without appearing a coward. In this state of exhaustion, I decided to take my problem to God.

“With my head in my hands, I bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud. The words I spoke to God that midnight are still vivid in my memory. ‘Lord, I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But now I’m afraid. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I do not stand before them with strength and courage, they will also falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I can’t face it alone.’

“At that moment, I experienced the presence of God as I had never experienced Him before. It seemed I heard the quiet assurance of God’s voice saying: ‘Stand up for righteousness, stand up for truth; and I will be at your side.’

“My fears evaporated and my uncertainty disappeared. I was ready to follow God and face anything.” [i]

To be a truly good shepherd, you must love your flock and be prepared to sacrifice yourself for them. And as Martin Luther King tells us, you must pray. You must ask God to help you, because this work is ultimately God’s project, and the original Good Shepherd knows exactly what’s required.

Let’s close with a story from the great storyteller, Fr Arthur Tonne.

A bus driver had just finished his rounds, taking the children home from school. As he parked the bus in the schoolyard, Fr Arthur came along.

‘Father,’ the bus driver said, ‘I’d like you to do something. Come on, sit in this driver’s seat.’

When Fr Arthur sat down, the driver said, ‘Look in that mirror. What do you see?’

‘I see a bunch of seats,’ Fr Arthur replied.

Then with a serious look the bus driver said, ‘I see those seats, fifty of them every day. But I see them filled with kids. I am responsible for every one of them. We’ve had some close calls, but, thank God, we have not had any serious accidents.’

The bus driver saw himself as the shepherd of his flock of schoolchildren.

Reflecting on this, Fr Arthur said later that the bus driver had given him a new slant on his own responsibility as a pastor.

‘I look out over our congregation,’ he said, ‘and I realise that I am responsible for every one of them. The bishop must do that with his entire diocese. The Pope must do it with the entire world. And on a smaller scale, but just as truly, a teacher looks out over her class, a coach looks over his team, and a father and mother look at their family.’ [ii]

We’re all meant to be good shepherds to others.

If you find it a challenge, then pray. Ask Jesus for His help.

[i] Gerard Fuller, Stories for All Seasons, Twenty-Third Publications, Mystic CT, 1997:63-64.

[ii] Arthur Tonne, Stories for Sermons, Vol 15. St John Church – Pilsen, Marion, Kansas, 1978.