John 10: 11-18
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The employee, who is not the shepherd and to whom the sheep does not belong, abandons the sheep and flees, when he sees the wolf coming - and the wolf seizes and disperses them, 13 because he is only an employee and does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and I know those who belong to me, and they know me, 15 as the Father knows me, and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for my sheep. 16 However, I have sheep that are not of this enclosure. These I have to lead and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, and there will be one shepherd. 17 This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life to take it up again. 18 No one takes it away from me, but it is I who lay it down from myself. I have the power to lay it down, and the power to take it back. This is the precept that I received from my Father.
To face the obscurities of this life, we need a beacon
Gospel commentary - Homily
Shayma's story upset me somewhat. At 18, life opened up before her. Her high school studies in an enriched program had been completed. She was considered a model student, she had won the scholarship from the school board for social commitment and perseverance in school. At the same time, she excelled in sports. But then one evening, under the pretext of a party with friends, she left the family home and never returned: she was on her way to Syria as a jihadist.
Parents don't understand. It was forgetting the role of the controversial Iman Adil. The latter had opened a Sunday school for young people which Shayma attended. A few years ago, this man had hit the headlines when the secret services suspected him of being a sleeping agent of Al-Qaeda. What is clear is that he was able to sow in Shayma's sensitive and ideal heart something that would lead her towards the members of the Islamist State of Syria, she who was concerned for the fate of the Palestinians and rebelled against Islamophobia. Was Adil a good shepherd or a predator?
This question is asked by today's Gospel. The Gospel according to John indeed affirms that Jesus is the good shepherd or pastor. What is the criterion for determining such a shepherd? He is ready to give his life for those in his care. Let us take the time to stop at this criterion and ask ourselves the question: for whom and for what reality are we ready to give our lives? Even if it doesn't go as far as physical death: for what or for whom are we ready to give everything, time, money, energy? I recently read about the heroic dedication of parents for their disabled child. This is the first criterion of the true pastor. And for the first Christians, who had to face the sarcasm of others concerning the ignominious death of Jesus with bandits and cursed of God, it was to proclaim the deep meaning of a death for others.
But for the Gospel according to John, there is a second criterion, just as important, which confirms that Jesus is the good shepherd: it is the mutual knowledge that exists between him and those for which he is responsible. This mutual knowledge works both ways. On the one hand, knowing means knowing who is the other, knowing what will lead him to become totally himself, will make him grow and reach his fullness. On the other hand, to know also means to recognize in the other something that is familiar to us, common values, a voice that is familiar to us and which reaches us deep within ourselves. All this requires patience, a time of taming and a lot of insight. We can easily imagine that this is what happened between Jesus and his disciples.
For me, two thousand years after leaving the roads of Palestine, Jesus remains this good shepherd. What he was for his disciples, it is what he is for me, it is what he can be for our world. His words reflect a deep knowledge of what we are, a clear vision which will make us grow and make us reach our fullness, not only us, but also our world. However, the journey he indicates to us is not easy. When we read the context of the good pastor's parable, we note that seven times the authorities seek to seize him and kill him. But, while remaining firm, Jesus will refuse to resort to violence, he will say to Peter in Gethsemane at the time of his arrest, "Put the sword in the sheath", because the path he will choose is that of love which agree to lay down its life in order to embrace an even greater life. And who can hear such a word? It has to resonate in the bottom of our heart, it has to blow on the embers of love that incubates in the depths of us, it has to awaken what is already part of us, it has to meet an open heart.
For me, Adil is a predator, not a good shepherd. Because the good shepherd does not put himself at the service of an ideology, but at the service of people. Adil used Shayma, her genuine indignation at the injustices against the Palestinians and certain Muslims, her thirst for a better world, to sow hatred and violence. Shayma doesn't interest him, he never took the time to get to know her deeply, and I'm sure he would never give his life for her. Shayma has been shown a path that will alienate her. It was a false god that was presented to her.
All of this highlights the great importance of good shepherds to guide our humanity. And there is an inseparable link between the good shepherd and his God. When Jesus said, "This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life to take it up again", he says that in him it is God who refused the way of omnipotence to choose instead that of love which is ready to lay down its life, and which alone opens onto a greater life. When someone says: God, or Allah, or Jehovah imposes all kinds of demands on me, and these demands have no connection with the love that is ready to lay down its life, he follows a false shepherd and a false god who will be alienating him. In the same way, if someone hears a word that arouses hatred above all, and not the best in me, surely he will alienate me. It is therefore vital to answer the question: who is my shepherd?
-André Gilbert, Gatineau, April 2015