Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Good Shepherd Must Be God

4th Sunday of Easter, John 10:27-30

In these verses our Savior concludes his Good Shepherd discourse in which he as so clearly expressed his immense love for us, and it is most striking that this discourse of love should conclude with our Lord’s strongest affirmation of his divinity: “The Father and I are one.” Reflecting on this passage we see that the Good Shepherd must not be a mere man, but must truly be the omnipotent God.

The parable of the Good Shepherd is meant to prove the great love which Christ Jesus has for us, his faithful ones. He tells us that he will protect us from the wolf, Satan and all evils; that he will call us to the verdant pastures of eternal life; and, what is more, he assures us that under his protection no one can do us any true harm.

“No one can take them out of my hand” In today’s Gospel he now proves what he had said above about the dignity of his sheep, namely, that no one can snatch them from his hand. His reason is this: “No one can snatch what is in the hand of my Father; but the Father's hand and mine are the same; therefore, no one can snatch what is in my hand.” Precisely because our Shepherd is one with God, because he is God himself and Lord of all, he is our Savior—he is able to save us because his love is all-powerful.

Where Christ only a man, he could be a moral leader and a good example, but he could never be our Shepherd and our Savior—for a mere man cannot protect us from evil, a mere man cannot lead us to eternal life. If Christ the Lord were not God, his love would be nothing more than a good-wish--something comforting, but not efficacious. But our Savior is not merely a man, he is truly God and, as God, his love does not merely wish good, but it indeed creates good, it makes us to be good, it establishes us and preserves us in goodness. Because our Shepherd is the Creator of heaven and earth, no wolf—not even the powers of hell—can scatter his sheep.

“The Father and I are one” – Jesus’ divinity is not just some pious thought, something which makes no real difference. For our Lord proves that no one will snatch the sheep from his hand precisely because no one can snatch from the hand of his Father. But this would not follow if his power were less than the power of the Father. Therefore, the Father and Son are one in nature, honor and power. And we, the sheep committed to Christ by his Father, are more highly valued by Christ than anything else; and no one can pluck us either out of the Father’s hand, or out of Jesus’ own hand.

But how did the Jews respond to this? Foolishly, they rejected our Savior’s words. They accused him of blasphemy, for he had made himself equal to God. In this the Jews understood Christ’s words more than many today. For they at least knew that when Jesus said, “The Father and I are one,” he was testifying to the truth of his Godhead. While many today pretend that Christ the Lord was nothing more than a moral teach, a good man, or (perhaps) a political and social revolutionary, the Jews at least were honest enough to recognize what Jesus truly claimed to be: the Son of God and God incarnate.

But, unhappily, they rejected this. They thought it was too much for a man to claim equality with God, for they had not faith to believe in the Incarnation. If only they had realized that Christ had come as their Savior, that they could have been his sheep, that the Lord Jesus alone was to be their Shepherd and protector against the forces of evil—how the Lord had desired to gather them into his flock, but they would not.

We too must avoid this pitfall. Knowing that Christ is true God and true man, we recognize him as our Shepherd and Savior. Trusting in his mercy and following his call, no one shall ever take us out of his hand.

For more on the parable of the Good Shepherd see: St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John 10.5.


Anonymous said...

Doesn't this suggest "once saved, always saved"? I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. Therefore, no one can snatch me from our Lord's hand.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Anonymous April 24, 6:16pm

Very good question...St. Thomas Aquinas terms of divine election and predestination to glory (God's knowledge and will to bestow eternal life upon his chosen ones), this is certain, unchanging.

However, on our side (within time); we may be in grace and then, because of sin, we fall from grace.

Thus, we do not believe "once saved always saved" in terms of our life on earth (we may regularly fall to sin); but terms of God's knowledge and predestination, if we are among the elect we are certainly saved.
Cf. Summa Theologica I, q.23.

This is a great mystery. The important thing is to remember that God's love is all-powerful, we must trust in his mercy and love...with his grace we will certainly persevere in his love and, if we pray, we will come to a happy death, the passage to eternal life.


Theresa said...

Reginaldus- for some reason your comment illuminated an understanding of this mystery. One which I have a difficultly to comprehend-the idea that some souls are predestined yet we have free will.

Mary would be a good example because she had free will and exercised her free will; however, did she also have the protection of special grace that would keep her in grace?

Certain members of God's creations would be pre-destined for the purpose of God's plan of salvation to unfold. For our sake not his.

I am speculating here so I may be way off the mark. If I am please correct me.

Campion said...

Thanks for your words Reginaldus. Very edifying indeed!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I think you are very much on the right track.

You mention certain special persons whom God guides and protects in a particular way...among these is St. Therese of the Child Jesus.

St. Therese said that, when she looked back on her life, she realized that God did not merely lift her when she fell, but he went even a step further and removed every stumbling block from her path beforehand so that she should never fall (mortally) in the first place!

On the other hand, whenever God leads anyone to salvation, it is a great and miraculous work...not in the sense that it is visible or out of the ordinary, but in the sense that the goodness of God will shine forth in great power and might when the multitude of saints are revealed to all on the last day.
First among these will be the Mother of God, she whose glory so far exceeds the angels and all the rest of creation.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Reginaldus, to my questions.

Theresa said...

Thank you Reginaldus. Another excellent example St Therese -I remember reading what you are referring to i think it was in "Story of a soul'

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Thank you to all who commented.

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