Jesus said: ‘The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life; they will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from me. The Father who gave them to me is greater than anyone, and no one can steal from the Father. The Father and I are one.’
Today’s Gospel is in fact the shortest of any Gospel reading in the three year cycle. Notwithstanding its brevity, John’s Gospel holds great promise for the followers of Jesus – the promise of eternal life. The verse “the sheep that belong to me listen to my voice” identifies that not all are followers of the Good Shepherd however and not all will be granted eternal life. These words distinguish those who listen to the shepherd’s voice and follow him from those who, even after hearing him speak and seeing the wonders of his work, refuse to believe. “You do not believe the works that I do in my Father’s name … you do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep” (John 10:26).
Preceding this passage Jesus had declared “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:24) an image which had been used to portray God throughout the Old Testament (Psalm 23) (Ezekiel ch 34) and in the Book of Jeremiah God in fact promises to raise up new shepherds to continue the legacy of David. It is the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd that largely shapes our understanding of our relationship with him. Sheep of course are defenceless and often in need of protection from predators. They are also vulnerable because they have a tendency to stray, and even become lost once they are separated from their shepherd. But it is the shepherd’s voice that they recognise, giving them a sense of security.
It is the voice of Jesus we hear as he calls us by name. Jesus the Good Shepherd loves and leads us, searching for us when we stray. The depths of his love for us know no limit. “I will lay down my life for my sheep” (John 10:15). By knowing Jesus the Good Shepherd we are ultimately drawn into intimacy with the Father for “the Father and I are one.”
Jesus the Good Shepherd, open my ears to hear you. Open my heart to receive you. Strengthen my will to follow you.