‘My sheep will never be lost’

Fourth Sunday of Easter Year C

The gift of ‘eternal life’ is repeatedly promised in Jesus’ teaching in this gospel and here Jesus assures us that those who belong to him and listen to his voice can never be lost. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.

John 10:27-30

27 Jesus said:
‘The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life; they will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from me. 29 The Father who gave them to me is greater than anyone, and no one can steal from the Father. 30 The Father and I are one.’

Other readings: Acts 13:14, 43-52 Psalm 99 (100) Apocalypse 7:9,14-17


Having listened to the accounts of the appearances of the risen Jesus in the Gospel of John we now consider some of the words of Jesus from earlier in the gospel, which richly illustrate his mission and identity. We read from the Gospel of John throughout the Easter period due to its profound insights into the person and work of Jesus. It is most appropriate to reflect on these deep truths and rich images as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and his gift of new life to us.

Today’s passage is taken from the tenth chapter of the gospel, which is renowned for Jesus’ words: ‘I am the good shepherd’. In fact, the chapter includes various sayings of Jesus relating to the image of the shepherd and his sheep. The use of this image, or parable, takes us back into the books of the Old Testament, where God is on several occasions described as a shepherd who has care for the sheep. The most famous instance of this is of course Psalm 22 (23), which begins with the words ‘The Lord is my shepherd. There is nothing I shall want.’

Despite the brevity of today’s passage from John’s gospel, several important themes of the gospel occur. ‘Belonging to Christ’ as sheep to a shepherd presupposes hearing and accepting the word. In John’s gospel we know Jesus himself as ‘the Word’.

The gift of ‘eternal life’ is repeatedly promised in Jesus’ teaching in this gospel. Christians are given a share in that life from the moment of baptism, and this is particularly underlined in John’s gospel. The full realisation of this life will come in the life of the resurrection, but Jesus assures us that those who are members of the flock can never be lost.

Finally, Jesus speaks of his relationship with the Father. ’The Father and I are one’ is a statement of enormous importance in helping us to understand the person of Jesus and the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

How do I respond to the call to follow Christ as my shepherd?

What consolation does this gospel passage provide?

We pray for a deeper sense of belonging to the world-wide ‘flock of Christ’.

We pray for reverence and love for the mystery of God, who is Three in One.

INT-IMG_5349 Fr Adrian Graffy (3)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