April 15, 2013
Whenever I have visited someone in the hospital and suggested that we pray, almost always the person will indicate that we should pray Psalm 23 “The Lord Is My Shepherd.” Small wonder, for God's loving care is so clearly manifested in this psalm as a shepherd and a host. As a shepherd, God will make sure that we lack for nothing, feeding us, strengthening us, guiding us along the right paths, and protecting us from every danger. As a host, God sets a table before us where we will dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our lives.
Our gospel reading from John is part of a longer passage where Jesus reveals himself as the Good Shepherd whose love goes so far that he is willing to lay down his life for his sheep. In fact, our second reading from the Book of Revelation makes this same assertion when it notes that it is the lamb that was slain who now shepherds us.
The sacrifice of the Lamb of God has taken away the sins of the world, providing us with eternal life so that we may never perish. God's plan, from the beginning of time, has been that God has made us so that we will be with God forever. (This, you might remember, is the old answer in the Baltimore Catechism to the question of why God made us: “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.”) God's plan for us to be united with God will never be thwarted, for no one can ever take us away from God and God's love for us. This love is unchangeable, unshakeable, and everlasting. There is nothing we can do to change this love that God has for us and God is willing to do anything to convince us of this love — even to become one like us and to lay down his life for us. “There is no greater love than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends” (John 15:13).
Jesus, the Lamb of God, the Good Shepherd leaves us an example to follow. In imitation of him, we are called to be shepherds, offering care and compassion not only to those people close to us, but also to those people who suffer throughout our world. This type of shepherding will imitate our Host at the Eucharistic table who provides us with real food and real drink to nourish us in this life and in the life to come. Acting in this way, in love and in service, we will conform ourselves more closely to the Lamb in this life so that we will be united more fully with Him in the life to come.