The fourth Sunday of Easter is known as Good Shepherd Sunday, because of the gospel reading. In all three years of the lectionary cycle, there are readings about sheep and shepherds.
Those who were newly baptized at Easter should be first and foremost on our minds this Sunday because they are “the new lambs.” And of course by extension, all those who belong to the flock of the Lord reflect on their relationship to him on this Sunday.
Turing to the figure of the Good Shepherd himself, we see that he is a subject of great affection and attention in the tradition. The fact that he is invoked in the Easter season reminds us that the risen Christ continually cares for those who have been entrusted to him by the Father.
The gospel reading this year (Year B, John 10:11-18) presents the shepherd as the one who lays down his life for the sheep and takes it up again. The Good Shepherd is thus the Crucified and Risen One, the paschal Christ of the Easter season.
Year A presents the image of Jesus as the gate of the sheepfold, a more puzzling image yet one which is also evocative. Year C brings forward the theme of hearing the shepherd’s voice, being known by him.
Together, all three of these gospel passages over the three years of the Lectionary cycle offer a rich depiction of Jesus and his saving work.
A new poem by Malcolm Guite takes up the theme of Jesus as the gate, the door. Although this is not the image highlighted in Year B, I was moved by the poem and so wanted to share it with you here as a reflection on the mystery we celebrate this Sunday.
Our Easter joy continues. Have a blessed Good Shepherd Sunday, everyone!
I Am the Door of the Sheepfold
Not one that’s gently hinged or deftly hung,
Not like the ones you planed at Joseph’s place,
Not like the well-oiled openings that swung
So easily for Pilate’s practiced pace,
Not like the ones that closed in Mary’s face
From house to house in brimming Bethlehem,
Not like the one that no man may assail,
The dreadful curtain, the forbidding veil
That waits your breaking in Jerusalem.
Not one you made but one you have become:
Load-bearing, balancing, a weighted beam
To bridge the gap, to bring us within reach
Of your high pasture. Calling us by name,
You lay your body down across the breach,
Yourself the door that opens into home.
Guite, Malcolm. (2015) “I Am the Door of the Sheepfold,” The Yale ISM Review: Vol. 1: No. 2, Article 8. Available at: http://ismreview.yale.edu