The Good Shepherd

Pastor's Desk

April 22nd, 2021

The Fourth Sunday of Easter is often called Good Shepherd Sunday because in all three cycles of readings we hear one of the passages from John where Jesus refers to himself as a good shepherd.  He lays down his life for his sheep.  He protects them from thieves and marauders.  He knows them, and they know his voice.  It is a powerful image.  One that was so powerful that the earliest depictions of Jesus in Christian art are of the Good Shepherd.  They’re frescoes in the catacombs of Rome that date back almost to the time of the writing of the gospels.  Always Jesus with a lost one over his shoulders.  One I love in particular is from the Catacomb of Priscilla.  Here Jesus is a young man, without a beard (he always is in ancient art), who stands between a sheep and a goat.  It echoes the account of the Last Judgement in Matthew where the shepherd separates the sheep and the goats, and the goats are consigned to punishment.  Except that here, the lost one over Jesus shoulders is a goat.  He seeks out and loves the most lost of the lost, it seems to say.  And this from the hand of an artist for whom both Matthew’s and John’s gospels were only a few years old.  An artist who could be executed for being Christian and who was decorating the graves of those who had been.  What kind of hope and trust does that take? Perhaps the simple hope and trust that lies behind a statement I saw recently on Facebook, “You will never look into the eyes of someone who is not loved by God.”

-Fr Lou