Sunday, May 03, 2009
If you've ever had a problem with an employee or a contractor, then you know what Jesus means when he talks about the difference between hireling and true shepherds--it's ownership. The hireling works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. To the true Shepard, the sheep are like family. He cares for them because they are his. He knows the and they know him; the sheep know the shepherd's voice and follow him. A good shepherd will lay down his life for a sheep to keep them from the wolf. Jesus says "I am the good shepherd." I suppose that makes us sheep!
Jesus says "There will be one flock, and one shepherd." As our shepherd, he is our unity. He will bring together all the sheep into one flock, even the ones "that do not belong to this fold." When the Church teaches that "outside the Church there is no salvation" she doesn't mean that you have to be Catholic to be saved; she means what Jesus meant. There is one flock and Jesus is bringing those who belong to another sheepfold to the one flock. The Church as the body of Christ carries on this mission: to bring all the sheep together to his one flock.
This is also what Peter is saying in the first reading from Acts that "There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved." Salvation is through Jesus Christ. The Church is his body, but the Church is bigger than just the Catholic Church. It is wherever people are seeking Christ, even if they don't know it is Christ they are seeking! Saint Paul says that God wants all people to be saved.
How will Jesus bring all his sheep together? By laying down his life for them. The cross didn't happen to Jesus, he wasn't a victim. He willingly gave his life for us, his bedraggled, smelly, wandering sheep. He laid down his life in order to take it up again. The salvation he secures for us by laying down his life is described by Saint John. "See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are." Calling God our Father is not just a expression of faith. The Father loves us and gives his life to us through the Sacraments. He makes us his children in reality, not just figuratively.
And this salvation procured by Christ is not just for now. As we grow in grace, in the very life of God in us, Saint John tells us that "we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is." Trust the Jesus, the Good shepherd, to bring his sheep into one flock to present to the Father, who will give us his very life in grace through his Church.