My sheep hear my voice, and they follow Me. [Spanish]
The Lord Jesus shepherds us. We talked about this two weeks ago.
Shepherds guide sheep, care for them, protect them, provide for them. Sheep cannot live without their shepherd. So the image of the shepherd and his sheep offers us an excellent metaphor for our relationship with Christ—a metaphor so excellent that He Himself employed it.
But we need to expand the metaphor in order to grasp its significance fully. Christ is the shepherd of our souls. And He shepherds us by being our priest, our prophet, and our king.
1. Our priest. We need a relationship with God Almighty, the mysterious, the awesome, the one omnipotent truth and beauty. Jesus shepherds us in that relationship.
On the cross, Christ acted as a priest, offering Himself to the Father, in order to reconcile all of creation with her Creator. All of us share in Christ’s priesthood when we offer ourselves to the Father along with the Body and Blood of Christ crucified. In the Holy Mass, Jesus joins our offering of ourselves to God with His offering of Himself to God.
Without Christ as our priest, we would not know how to offer ourselves honestly and well. We would have no real hope that any offering we made of ourselves would actually please the Father.
But when Christ our Good Shepherd unites our offering of ourselves with His offering of Himself—which is precisely what happens at Mass—then we can rest in the peace of knowing that God does accept the sacrifice.
He smiles on it. It pleases Him. Our sacrifice of ourselves to God does bring about peace and friendship; it harmonizes us with heaven. Because we share in the priesthood of our Good Shepherd and High Priest, Jesus of Nazareth.
2. Our prophet. We need to know the truth. We need insight into the great mystery of life. We need to understand somehow why we exist and what we should do. We need to know what ultimate goal we can seek.
Our Good Shepherd Jesus Christ reveals all this to us. We have a Father in heaven Who loves everything that He made. He wills our growth, our fruitfulness, our ultimate happiness. He united Himself to us personally, so as to share His life with us. He has made us His adopted children and has prepared a heavenly inheritance for us. He forgives repentant sinners. He rewards self-sacrificing love.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son. The Good News. The world does not know Him, but we know Him. And He has entrusted to us the message of God’s undying love.
He has given us ‘the key of knowledge,’ so to speak. Jesus Christ makes human life make sense. Jesus alone has spoken to the human race the truth about itself. With Him as our teacher and source of heavenly information, we can deal with anything. Without Him, we inevitably destroy ourselves, one way or the other.
3. Our king. Here’s a quote from Pope St. Leo the Great: What indeed is as royal for a soul as to govern the body in obedience to God?
Jesus used the cross as His altar, as we remembered earlier. But He also used the cross as His throne. From the cross, He reigned over all things.
Now, worldly selfishness cannot conceive of the cross as a throne. But worldly selfishness has no true peace or happiness, either.
The true king does not subjugate us by coercion, by flattery, or by indulgence. He subjugates honest and free souls solely by the power of the truth. He sees all and knows all. He governs all things in accord with the loving plan of Providence.
On the cross, Christ revealed the greatest sovereignty. A human soul so self-possessed that nothing could detach it from God. No threat of violence, no recrimination, no false promise of passing comfort or fame could move the kingly soul from its true love.
The devil wants to subjugate us by dishonestly promising us all kinds of benefits—benefits that quickly turn into shackles. Christ liberates us from this by freely giving us the freedom to trust in our heavenly Father for everything. And to live only to please Him. Christ gave us this kingly gift from His cross.
Christ is the shepherd-king of the humble sheep who live for God and only God. Christ’s people quietly lead unremarkable lives of little, unnoticed kinknesses—all the while enjoying a kind of serenity and joyful hope that all the gold in Fort Knox could never give.
Our shepherd-priest. Our shepherd-prophet. Our shepherd-king. We follow Him to the altar to give ourselves to the Father. We heed His teachings, live by them, and share them with love. We follow Him gladly to the throne of the cross, because we know: That is where our King reigns over the whole universe.