The Beloved Son of God, loves without regret, loves without end, loves to breaking point. His life is ‘given’ into the life of His friends. He loves unconditionally and has the safety of His friends always in His Sacred Heart. His love does not recede or vanish when trouble arrives. The Shepherd dies. The sheep live. This is what makes Him the Good Shepherd.
His disciples know well what it is like to be carried by hired hands; who really have no care for their sheep and abandon them when trouble arrives. They are only interested and concerned with themselves and are motivated by rewards. The appearance of the wolf is like a bright light which shows them in their true colours. The sheep die. The shepherd escapes.
The Good Shepherd has seen that when He is “lifted up” He “will draw” other sheep to Himself. What is so attractive about Him? Is it not that He reveals the kind of loving that transforms death into life. The power of this truth will be a magnet that will create one community from the vast diversity of people on the earth. This is how His Fathers’ life works in and through His Beloved Son. Jesus freely enters the realm of death. On the surface, it might look as if His life is in the hands of His enemies. But at a deeper level, the act of, “laying it down” and “taking it up again” has always been His choice, His work.
Two lovers gaze into each other’s eyes on their wedding day and say without any reserve in their hearts that their love will be true, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health. A mother and father hold their new-born baby in their arms for the first time, and from some vastness of Love within themselves say, “I would lay down my life for you.” A friend sits at the bedside of a friend who is dying and says, “I’m not going away”. Life presents us with many moments, large and small, where we commit ourselves without reserve to another person’s life. But these are not moments that we choose. They are simply something we are. We do not boast of this love since it does not appear to be something of our own making. We can only humbly accept it for what it is. We can only accept to be unconditional love. We might say, this love chooses us.
It seems that Jesus had many ways to try and give us an insight into who He is. Perhaps this week you could look at some of these themes which always begin with the words “I Am”…… the Bread of Life, the Light of the World and so on. But perhaps there is no image as clear as the one offered in this week’s Sunday Gospel. He is most Himself when He is laying down His life for His sheep. His “I Am.” is carried on the same breath as a “May you be.”
And so, it is with us. Perhaps the glimpses we catch of our true self are rare. But we do see them, and they are real. The joy this brings makes us attractive. It is the magnet Jesus said it would be. If you are drawn to this revelation, you might be interested to know that the Greek word for good, ‘kalos’, can also be translated as Beautiful.