We know the reasons why Jesus is called the Good Shepherd.
He is the shepherd who knows his sheep. “The sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out … he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him.” (John 10:3-4)
He is the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine to seek out the lost sheep and when he finds it proclaims, “Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.” (Luke 15:6).
He is the shepherd whose love has no limits. “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16)
He is the shepherd who “lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
Throughout his ministry, Jesus acted as the shepherd the Lord describes in this Sunday’s First Reading (Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17). There the Lord says, “I myself will look after and tend my sheep … I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered … I myself will pasture my sheep … I myself will give them rest … the lost I will seek out … the strayed I will bring back…the injured I will bind up….the sick I will heal … shepherding them rightly.”
We know what makes Jesus the Good Shepherd.
In this Sunday’s Gospel for the Solemnity of Christ the King (Matthew 25:31-46), Jesus tells us what makes people the “good sheep.”
Jesus speaks of the last judgment when he will come as king to separate the sheep from the goats.
The sheep who will be judged worthy of a place in his kingdom are those who showed mercy and compassion to the hurting. They fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, cared for the sick and visited the imprisoned.
In other words, they did what Jesus did. They followed the teaching and example of Jesus, their Good Shepherd.
Imitating the Good Shepherd is more important than ever in this time of the coronavirus pandemic when many people feel disconnected and afraid. They are like the lost sheep waiting for someone to pick them up and rescue them from the darkness, despair, and loneliness of this moment.
Those who will be judged unworthy of a place in the kingdom are those who failed to recognize their connection and obligation to their fellow human beings.
They failed to realize that in neglecting to show love and compassion to others, they were failing to show love for God. As St. John tells us, “for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20)
We know why Jesus is honored as the Good Shepherd.
This Sunday, Jesus tells us what we are to do if we are to be recognized as the “Good Sheep” worthy to hear the king say to us, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
© 2020 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski