"I Am the Good Shepherd"
...are words spoken by Jesus in several gospel passages, and I've gotten used to reading and hearing them over the years in church. Imagine my surprise when I heard, in last Sunday's Gospel, Jesus essentially saying to His apostles "YOU are the good shepherds". I had to blink and read it twice, for what may be old news to my Catholic family, was pure revelation to these evangelical protestant ears. Hearing the context of Jn 10:11 in light of Jn 10:1-10, and the following verses, opened my eyes to what Our Lord was actually saying.
Certainly in its historical context, John sees the house of Israel as the sheepfold. Other shepherds (most notably the Pharisees) have entered the coral in many ways...but not through the Gate. They are thieves and murderers. But now Jesus announces to His disciples that He is the only "Gate", to the sheepfold, and if they enter the sheepfold through Him, they are true shepherds of Israel. I may be pushing the point, but for so many years, I heard it said that there are no shepherds in the kingdom of God other than Christ. The rest of us are all sheep. Here in Jn 10, Jesus tells us something else. Yes, He is the "Good Shepherd", the "Gate", the "Door" and the "Owner" of the sheep, but those who enter through Him are also true shepherds of the sheep. Furthermore, there are other sheepfolds besides the House of David, and He, the Owner, cares for them as well. Their shepherds also must only enter through Him. Anyone else is a robber.
Later in John - after the resurrection - Jesus appoints and empowers those who will be these shepherds of His flock. Those who will enter through the "Gate", and not climb over the fence. They are Peter and the apostles, upon whom He founds His Church. And on the day of His ascension, He assures these eleven men that He will always be with them, until the end. If our Lord declares He will be with His Church, founded upon His apostles, until the end of the age, we can be confident that this Church will remain the Church of God for all time. It will never somehow morph into something else that is not the Church of God. That is the promise of Christ Himself, and we Catholics can take it very seriously. The first century Church, the fourth century Church, the 15th century Church, the 21st century Church, remains the Church of Jesus Christ, led by the true shepherds. In spite of all the imperfections, sins and weaknesses of Her membership (and at times, even some of Her shepherds) she remains God's own people until the end, when He returns to take her home as His precious bride!