In the readings for today's Sunday liturgy, one is struck anew by the descriptions of God's fatherly tenderness and motherly protectiveness. We are called God's beloved children now, even imperfect as we are! And Jesus calls himself "The Good Shepherd" (Jn 10:11). Unlike the hired hand who gets paid for watching over the sheep, but is not personally invested in their welfare, Jesus pays dearly with his own life to ward off dangers that threaten his flock. When the wolf (evil) comes to attack the sheep, the hired hand runs off, only concerned about saving himself. But the Good Shepherd stays and lays down his life for his sheep (Jn 10:15). And that means each and every sheep in the fold as well as "other sheep that do not belong to this fold" for whom Christ must also lay down his life, so that there may be "one flock and one shepherd" (Jn 10:16).
Once for Every One
In the Short Text, Julian made an astounding observation: I saw truly that if he might die as often as once for every man [or woman] who shall be saved, as he died once for all, love would never let him have rest until he had done it."
Indeed, the church believes that, throughout the world, Christ, the Good Shepherd, is being immolated on the altar for the salvation of his "flock," that is, all humankind, until the end of time. He allows himself to be bound like a sacrificial lamb under the appearances of bread and wine so that he might be truly and mystically present to those who receive him in Eucharist. By so doing, he enters into every person's suffering, in every time and place, having no regard for the cost. As Julian interpreted Christ's intention:
How should it then be that I should not for thy love do all that I might?
Every time we hear of another catastrophe, a terrible earthquake, a deadly avalanche, the drowning of refugees at sea, the beheading or shooting of victims of religious and ethnic persecution, mass migrations of millions of men, women and children because of wars, we may wonder where The Good Shepherd is in all this horror. How is he guiding and protecting his "flock"?
We may be sure that Christ is laying down his life with each and every victim, consoling every one of the suffering, the mourning, the fleeing, the terrified, and bringing volunteers and aid workers to the rescue in his name to give medical aid and spiritual comfort. As tragic as the stories of destruction and death are, we must find hope in the fact that there are also countless untold stories of people helping people, bringing love, compassion, and strength to the victims. This is where the Good Shepherd is, walking among the rubble in Nepal, tending his loved ones. And out of all this shock and horror and suffering, he will bring a miraculous transformation. In every dying, we must believe there will always be a rising. The Good Shepherd will never abandon his children, which is "what we are now." And when it is revealed "what we shall be," we shall see him "face to face," and recognize his voice, the voice that speaks to every one of us, in every crisis of our lives: How should it then be that I should not for thy love do all that I might?