Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle B

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Catacomb - Good_Shepherd c.200.jpg

John 10: 11-18

“I know my own and my own know me”

Jesus presents himself as the 'Good Shepherd', an image laden with meaning in the Old Testament where it speaks of God's love and faithfulness to his people. Probably the most famous use of this metaphor as an image of God is in Psalm 23 “the Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want …” Here, in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus adopts the title for himself. He is the good shepherd, one who lays down his life for his sheep, a shepherd who knows his people and is known to them.

The sort of knowledge Jesus speaks of, knowledge in the biblical sense, is based on personal contact, familiarity and experience, and develops into love. 'To know' is to be fully intimate with, to understand with both the mind and the heart. So, the bond between him and his followers is not one of external routine or ritual. It is an intimate, caring and loving relationship based on mutual knowledge and acceptance. Indeed, Jesus says he ‘knows’ his own in the same way that the Father knows him and he knows the Father, and he invites his people to know him in the same way.

Knowing Jesus, then, involves a personal relationship; it means being of one mind and heart with him. The image of good shepherd can easily lead to an overly sentimental approach to the gospel. True, this image presents a comforting and reassuring picture of Christ. But it also challenges us about our fundamental attitude towards him: Do we really seek to know Jesus? Do we truly accept him as our leader? Are we readily tuned in to the sound of his voice? Do we aspire to be of one mind and heart with him? Are we trying to cultivate a genuine, personal relationship with him?

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The image shown above dates from 350-75 AD. It is found in the Domitilla catacomb in Rome which contains over nine miles of underground passage. It is especially famous for its wall paintings, some of which date back to the third century, and include this wall painting of the Good Shepherd.