God's desire for the unity of all men in Himself
Fourth Sunday of Easter (Easter4B), May 3, 2009
By Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep."
In the parable of the good shepherd, Jesus intends above all to affirm his divinity. Paradoxically, in presenting himself in the form of an ordinary man, a shepherd, Christ highlights everything in himself that belongs not to man but to God. For he insists on this important point: "He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not ..." The sheep, of course, represent all men, all beings of flesh and spirit that God created in his image and in his likeness. Now, precisely because man was created by God, he belongs to God and to no other. So, by saying that the sheep do not belong to the hireling, to he who is not the shepherd, Jesus wants to clearly show that he is God, he to whom the sheep - men - properly belong. Jesus is the good shepherd: he is the one to whom the sheep belong, he is God, the Creator of all things in heaven and on earth!
"I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep."
Jesus is the good shepherd, Jesus is God: he is the Son of the Father. He is the One whom the Father sent to earth to manifest to all men and women how great is his Love for them. Jesus, the good shepherd, reveals the Love of the Father. Jesus came to bring to earth the Fire of Love: a celestial Fire which consumes him permanently, and which led him to the extreme torture of the Cross! The Love that Jesus reveals is so strong that it leads to the ultimate fusion of that body, that whole made up of all who are burned by it: this Love is that of the Father and the Son who live eternally in the unity of the Holy Spirit! Jesus is the good shepherd: he knows his sheep because he is but one with them, in the Love of the Father. Jesus and his sheep are but one Body, the Body of Christ, which manifests on earth this unity in the Love and the Knowledge of the Father and the Son within the Divine Trinity: "I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father."
" And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd."
The Love of the Father causes Jesus' suffering: it is his Passion, and he died because of it. Nothing can distract him from the Love of the Father, and this Love must, at all costs, be realized through the unity of all in him for the Glory of his Father. Jesus lives with his Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit: each moment of his human life is imbued with this divine unity, every time his heart beats he loves to a greater extent all of the men and women he came to save and to lead to the Father for all eternity. His passion is the unity of all, of all those who believe in his name and who call upon the Father in the Love of the Holy Spirit. "That they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee." (Jn. 17:21) This prayer for unity was addressed by Jesus to his Father on the day before his death: it was in this spirit that he went to his torment, because it was at the price of his departure on the cross that the Holy Spirit would be sent to earth to bring all men to the Love of the Father. "If I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." (Jn. 16:7)
" For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father."
The Passion of Jesus is nothing without his Resurrection. Man, whom the Father created, and who belongs to God, must be recreated in Christ: for sin had obscured the image of God in man, and so it was necessary both to purify this image and to give it a new brilliance, even brighter than in the beginning. The Passion of Christ purified man, and his Resurrection gave this creature a new and incomparable splendor, one that will shine for eternity. Jesus gave his life for a quite precise and unique reason: to make all the men and women who believe in him into new creatures in the Holy Spirit. "I lay down my life, that I may take it again."
The new creation which is realized in the resurrected Jesus manifests to the highest degree God's desire for the unity of all men in Himself. For the Death and Resurrection of Christ were achieved in the most intimate union with the Father. Indeed, Jesus did not achieve this act of his own initiative, but he carried out the order of his Father, he carried out what the Father had commanded him to do in the unity of the Holy Spirit: "I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father."
Unity is at our door... It is there, present, always offered to us... It is especially there when we are about to celebrate the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ offered in sacrifice for the salvation of the world! May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Unity, Model of union with God and the Church, intercede for us, for all who are dear to us, and for all who believe in the Son of God, Savior of the world!