“Reject the dishonest, ill prepared, corrupt, immoral, and the selfish.”
The Gospel reading for the fourth Sunday of Easter is a short one. In the scripture, Jesus is telling his listeners about what makes a good shepherd and the qualities of his flock. Jesus preaches: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is telling his disciples what they must do to be good disciples. Thus, true discipleship means that one must be ready to follow him wherever He leads them. They are like sheep who recognize the voice of their master, willingly and without hesitation follow that voice. Jesus makes no promise of a smooth and clear path. Often the way is rocky and bumpy. Yet, like the docile sheep, they are devoted to their master. They follow blindly, mindless of the difficult roads upon which they trod and the dangers that lie ahead.
Pope Francis summarizes this Gospel in some actions: Jesus speaks, Jesus knows, Jesus gives eternal life, Jesus guards. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is attentive to each one of us; He seeks us and loves us, giving us His word, knowing our hearts in depth, our desires and our hopes, as well as our failures and our disappointments. He receives and loves us as we are, with our good points and our bad points. He gives each one of us “eternal life”: that is, He offers us the possibility of living a full life, without end. Moreover, He guards us and guides us with love, helping us to go on impervious paths and at times risky roads that appear in the path of life, Francis adds.
This sounds simple. But discipleship is oftentimes way more complicated than mere following, listening to Jesus. There are times when it does feel just that clear and easy. Yet other parts of the Bible, like in the Book of Revelation tells us that discipleship develops by passing through a time of great “tribulation,” and the Acts of the Apostles is full of warnings that faith communities will be tested by internal divisions even as their very character seems to be challenged by new members from every land.
The Good Shepherd urges his flock to keep focused and continuously train sights on Him, and on Him alone no matter what it takes. He gives us an unshakeable promise—that whosoever remains faithful to the very end will not perish but will gain eternal life. As Jesus said, His Father in heaven is greater than our troubles, greater that everything we experience in life, greater than life itself. For He and the Father are one.
Jesus as the Good Shepherd perfectly embodies sacrificial love. He was willing to give everything to save his flock. No suffering, persecution, rejection could deter Him from His responsibility to the Father of caring for us in an unconditional manner. His example should inspire us to do the same to our children, the people in our care, neighbors, and finally to our very own nation. Jesus’ deep love for us is a consoling thought knowing that sometimes we are overwhelmed by so many trials and tribulations in this life. Yet, Jesus tells us how to overcome, for in the end there is He who supports, encourages, consoles, and truly loves His flock.
This coming Monday, May 9, the whole nation will be going to the polls to exercise their right to vote and elect the new set of leaders. The Scripture in the parable of the Good Shepherd shows us the perfect way to choose our leaders. Like the Good Shepherd who is ever willing to go all out to protect his flock, we too must be willing and able to give our all to ensure the well being and protection of the nation. Choose the leaders who are willing to sacrifice, will promote human dignity, and are endowed with the fear of God. Reject the dishonest, ill prepared, corrupt, immoral, and the selfish. Let us vote for those, who in our conscience, will best serve the people and be good shepherds to their flock. And reject “a hired man who is not a shepherd”, who sees the wolf coming and runs. These kind of leaders are inimical and damaging to the people of God for they run at the very first sign of danger, leaving the flock untended and vulnerable to attack.
We will have a different Philippines depending on who wins on Monday. Either way, it will be turbulent. But regardless of the outcome, we will still have our country on Tuesday and the days, weeks, months, and years to follow. And yes we do have Our Good Shepherd. Let us follow his command to love each other, as commanded in the gospel of the Fourth Sunday of Easter and we will be fine.
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