The parables in this week’s reading show that not only does Jesus lead his people, but he is also the way through which they enter to reach life. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.
1 Jesus said: ‘I tell you most solemnly, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but gets in some other way is a thief and a brigand. 2 The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; 3 the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice. 5 They never follow a stranger but run away from him: they do not recognise the voice of strangers.’
6 Jesus told them this parable, but they failed to understand what he meant by telling it to them.
7 So Jesus spoke to them again: ‘I tell you most solemnly, I am the gate of the sheepfold. 8 All others who have come are thieves and brigands; but the sheep took no notice of them. 9 I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe: he will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.’
Other readings: Acts 2:14,36-41 Psalm 22 (23) 1 Peter 2:20-25
On most of the days of the Easter season, which goes from Easter Sunday until Pentecost, the gospel passage set down to be read at Mass is from the Gospel of John. This gospel, also known as the Fourth Gospel, contains rich teaching and new understandings of Jesus which supplement what is found in the other gospels. Our reading this Sunday is from the tenth chapter of John, in which we are presented with the image of Jesus as the good shepherd.
In the verses read this year there is an additional focus. While Jesus contrasts the shepherd of the sheep with the ‘brigand’ and the ‘stranger’, he goes on to refer to himself as ‘the gate of the sheepfold’. Not only does Jesus lead his people, but he is also the way through which they enter to reach life. The Risen Lord is ‘the way, the truth and the life’ (John 14:6).
Jesus comes ‘so that we may have life and have it to the full’ (verse 10). The Easter season is a prolonged celebration of the gift of life which we receive from the moment of Baptism, and the anticipation of our full sharing in it in the life to come.
The second reading also celebrates the new life of baptism. The image of the shepherd is found here too, as Jesus is called the ‘shepherd and guardian of our souls’.
How effective is the image of Jesus as the ‘good shepherd’?
Does the evangelist’s use of images confuse or enlighten you?
Pray Psalm 22 (23) and ask for a deeper awareness that ‘the Lord is my shepherd’.
We support by our prayer all those called to priesthood and the religious life.
Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.
Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”
He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”
Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).
Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy