BY: Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya

First Reading: Acts 2:14a, 36-41
Ps. 23:1-4.5.6
Second Reading: 1 Peter 2:20b-25
Gospel Reading: 10:1-10

A lady visiting the Holy Land came upon a sheepfold located high on a hilltop. Her attention was drawn to one poor sheep lying by the side of the road bleating in pain. Looking more closely, she discovered that its leg was injured. She asked the shepherd how it happened.
“I had to break it myself,” he answered sadly. “It was the only way I could keep that wayward creature from straying into unsafe places. From past experience I have found that a sheep will follow me once I have nursed it back to health. Because of the loving relationship that will be established as I care for her, in the future she will come instantly at my beck and call

TODAY IS KNOWN AS GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY because, in each year of the liturgical cycle on this 4th Sunday, the Gospel is always taken from the 10th chapter of John where Jesus speaks of himself as the “good shepherd”.

In today’s passage Jesus emphasises the self-sacrificing element in his own life: “The good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep.” He contrasts the good shepherd who owns the sheep to someone who is simply hired to look after them. The hired man thinks primarily of his own welfare and, if he sees a wolf coming, he takes off, leaving the sheep to be attacked and scattered in fear and terror. Jesus, on the other hand, will not be like a hired person: “I lay down my life for my sheep.”

He knows his sheep
Secondly, the good shepherd knows his sheep and they know him. There is a mutual bond of love and intimacy. Again the hired man or the self-interested leader will not have such a relationship with his charges. The Second Reading speaks in similar terms when the author says, “Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children, and that is what we are.”

One shepherd and one flock
Thirdly, the good shepherd deeply desires that many other sheep should come to identify themselves with him. “There are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and these I have to lead as well.” The ultimate goal is that “there will be only one flock, and one shepherd”, that the whole world will be united together with its God and Lord. This is the meaning of the Kingdom which is at the heart of the Gospel message.

This is a goal which preoccupies us still today. Ecumenism. Here, more than anywhere is there a need for us all, Christians, to follow one Shepherd and form one flock. Otherwise how can we give witness to the love of Christ if that love is lacking among the followers of Jesus?

Giving life willingly
Jesus emphasises that, in giving his life for his sheep, he is doing so of his own will. It is not just by force of circumstances. His death is to be the living proof that “the greatest love a person can show is to give one’s life for one’s friends”. This is the proof that Jesus truly is a Good Shepherd. As Jesus himself says in the Gospel today, “I lay down my life of my own free will, and as it is in my power to lay it down, so it is in my power to take it up again.” And so it was.

The shepherds of our day, to mention a few, are parents and guardians, teachers, clergy and nuns, senior partners in firms, officers in the military, and executives in companies and so on. If anyone is placed under your supervision or care, you are a shepherd. All who are in leadership positions are modern day shepherds.

The question before us, then, is “What makes a shepherd good?” One of the identifying characteristics of a good shepherd, which Jesus gives, is that a good shepherd is willing to lay down his life for his sheep.

Sheep are easy prey for predators. Shepherds must protect their sheep, fight off predators and keep their sheep safe even at the cost of their lives.

The good shepherd demonstrates sacrificial love. In the gospel of John, Jesus says, “There is no greater love than a man laying down his life for another.” The very core of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that God so loved the world that he gave His son so that all who believe in him might live. Jesus not only was a needed sacrifice, he was a willing sacrifice. Jesus clearly points out that no one took his life from him, but rather he willingly gave up his life for the people of the world.

What are the characteristics of good shepherds (leaders)? What makes them effective?

Good leaders want those who are in their care to succeed, to grow in competence, and to advance. Their own success is found in the successes of those under their supervision. After all, the growth of an enterprise comes from the growth of those who comprise it.

Good leaders have character. They stand for something and exert a positive influence on others. Good leaders are accountable for the choices they make and likewise hold those in their care accountable. Leaders, good leaders, have a clear sense of purpose. They know where they are going and they clearly communicate their goals to those around them.  They make their choices knowing that they will be accountable, accountable to others and accountable to themselves.

Good leaders examine their consciences. The word conscience comes from two Latin words: con-scientia and it means “to know with¸” to know with God what is right and what is wrong and so they act with a clear knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. Good leaders examine their motives and pay attention to their relationships with others.

Good leaders know their own weaknesses and limitations but they are not governed by them. Good leaders are people who are comfortable with themselves and at peace with themselves. One cannot give what one does not have. A leader filled with self- doubt will project that on to those whom he or she is leading. Self-punishment leads to punishment of others. Doubt of self leads to doubt of others. Feelings of inferiority will cause leaders to use others to prop themselves up.

Leaders: it’s not about you; it’s about those in your care. Self-centered leaders who think only of their own promotion need to get over themselves.

Leaders have a clear sense of direction and the goals to get there. Like shepherds they know where the green pastures are found…

Where is God calling me to make my own unique contribution based on the particular talents God has given me? If every single one us were to answer that question sincerely and to act upon it, I am confident that our Church and our society at large would have all the leadership it needs.


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