John 10: 1-10
Jesus said to his disciples. “Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good – a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it.”
Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again.
“I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for – will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”
Christianity is not just loving Christ but being Christ-like; which strangely translates as being a sheep…
Jesus used the culture of his time to tell the disciples this. We laugh at the thought of being sheep but we also know that the devotion of animals to their masters can’t be overstated. And, at the time, it was sheep that portrayed this. Sheep are devoted to their shepherd and to each other; they know each others fears and sees the flock, the community, as the most important thing in the world.
The shepherd knows that keeping them close – from birth, through first steps and brave leaps; by words and whistle and songs and midnight stories under starry skies – that those sheep become his; bleating hearts and shaggy souls.
Pope Francis, in a homily to his priests asked that they soak up the smell of their sheep. Whilst not too sure about the comparison, it is important that we realise that we are all in this together – that salvation is belongs to the ‘flock’ – that love is about community.