This Fourth Sunday of Easter, called “Good Shepherd Sunday,” each year invites us to rediscover even more new wonder, this definition which Jesus gave of Himself, reading into it in light of His Passion, Death and Resurrection. “The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn 10:11). These words came true when Christ fully, freely obeying the will of the Father, sacrificed himself on the Cross. Then it becomes quite clear what it means that He is “the Good Shepherd:” He gives life, He offered His life as a sacrifice for all of us: for you, for you, for you, for me, for everyone! And this is the good shepherd!
Christ is the true shepherd, which realizes the highest model of love for the flock: He has laid down His life freely, no one takes it from him (cf. v. 18), but gives it in favor of the sheep (v. 17). In open opposition to false shepherds, Jesus presents himself as the only true shepherd of the people, the bad shepherd thinks of himself and uses his sheep; the good shepherd thinks of his sheep and gives himself. Unlike the mercenary, Christ is a caring, guiding shepherd who participates in the life of His flock, not for other interests, for He has no other ambition than to guide, nurture and protect his sheep. And all this at the highest price, that of the sacrifice of His own life.
In the figure of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, we contemplate God’s providence, His paternal concern for each of us. He does not leave us alone! The consequence of this contemplation of Jesus, the true and good Shepherd, is the exclamation of profound wonder that we find in the Second Reading of today’s Liturgy: “See what love the Father has given us …” It’s really a surprising and mysterious love, because in giving us Jesus as the Shepherd who gives His life for us, the Father has given us everything as big and as valuable as He possibly could give us! It is the highest and purest love because it is not motivated by any necessity, is not conditioned by any calculation, and is not attracted to any interested desire to exchange. Faced with this love of God, we experience great joy and we are open to gratitude for what we have received for free.
But it is not enough to contemplate and give thanks. One should also follow the Good Shepherd. In particular, those who have the mission as leaders in the Church – priests, bishops, popes – are called not to take on the mentality of ‘manager,’ but that of the servant, in imitation of Jesus who, stripping himself, has saved us with His mercy. Also called to this style of pastoral life of the Good Shepherd are the new priests of the Diocese of Rome, whom I have had the joy of ordaining this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica. And two of them will overlook to thank you for your prayers and to greet you … [two priests near the Holy Father were overlooking those gathered]
Mary obtain for me, for the bishops and priests of the whole world the grace to serve the holy people of God through joyful proclamation of the Gospel, heartfelt celebration of the sacraments and patient and mild pastoral leadership.
After the Regina Coeli:
Dear brothers and sisters,
I want to assure my closeness to people affected by a strong earthquake in Nepal and neighboring countries. I pray for the victims, for the wounded and for all who suffer because of this disaster. You have the support of fraternal solidarity. Let’s pray to Our Lady who is close to them. “Hail Mary …”
Today, in Canada, Blessed Maria Elisa Turgeon, founder of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of San Germano, is proclaimed: an exemplary religious, devoted to prayer, teaching in small towns of her diocese, and to works of charity. We thank the Lord for this woman, model of life consecrated to God and generous commitment to the service of others.
I greet with affection all the pilgrims from Rome, Italy and from various countries, especially those coming in large numbers from Poland to mark the first anniversary of the canonization of John Paul II. Beloved, always resound in your hearts his call: “Open the doors to Christ!” that he said in the strong and holy voice he had. May the Lord bless you and your families and Madonna protect you.
I greet the faithful of Budapest, Madrid, Burgos, Bratislava and Cairo; as well as those of Trieste, Giovinazzo, Gorga, Gorlago, Pesaro, Lamezia Terme. I greet the young people of Niscemi and Trezzano Rosa, and the boys of the vicariates of Casalpusterlengo and Codogno, who are going to renew the profession of faith.
I wish you all a good Sunday. Please do not forget to pray for me. Good lunch and goodbye!