Fourth Sunday of Easter B
‘Look for yourself and you will find, in the long run, only loneliness and decay. But look for Christ and you will find him and with him everything else thrown in’ (C.S. Lewis). Jesus came that we might have life and have it to the full. He points out where that life is to be found, he himself is that life. One of his self-portraits is that of himself as the shepherd who cares for his flock. An important task for every shepherd in his time was to lead the flock to water and pasture, guide them to where life was to be found. The Gospel of John has several examples of Jesus guiding people to life. In his experience of Jesus as shepherd, Nicodemus found that his fear melted away and courage took its place (Jn 3:1-11; 19:39). Courage took him to Calvary with a generous gift of aloes and myrrh. At Jacob’s well the Samaritan woman met Jesus as the shepherd who knew all about her life (Jn 4:1-42). In his presence she discovered that there was no need to carry her past with shame and guilt. With the joy she found in that freedom she went back to the town to share her experience of Jesus. Anger and prejudice had left her only half alive. Jesus gave her a new quality of existence. His healing presence also transformed the life of the paralytic (Jn 5:1-14). Healing what paralyses, Jesus calls the healed man to the responsibility that goes with being whole again. Jn 9:1-41 relates the story of the cure of a blind man. Jesus not only restores his sight, he also gives insight. The man who is cured comes to faith and is prepared to defend Jesus’ good name against hostile interrogation by Jews opposed to him. The story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead (Jn 11:1-44) points to Jesus’ capacity to change what is dead into new life. Peter, who abandoned Jesus, is rehabilitated and given a mission as shepherd (Jn 21:15-18).
In each of our own personal stories Jesus continues to be present as shepherd. Where there is fear, shame and guilt, paralysis, blindness, failure, he comes to bring life. Nicodemus saw for himself on Calvary how Jesus gave of himself to the end. To expect that we will find fulfilment through all our needs being met is an illusion. It was through dying on the Cross, through self-giving, that Jesus found fulfilment. What he did, he did freely. He gave, not because of pressure from without or within, but by his own decision, I have the power to lay down my life and the power to take it up again. All who aspire to be shepherds after his example can learn from him how love is a risk and how it involves self-giving. Over the past few weeks we have heard details about the tragedy of the Titanic There were numerous heroes, many of whom died that others might live. Some worked to keep the engines going to the end so that there would be light and make it possible for passengers get to the lifeboats. Others declined places in the lifeboats to leave space for passengers in greater need or to console those for whom there no places in the boats. In sacrifices that are made for each of us, Jesus lives on as the good shepherd.