Christ the Good Shepherd
'I am the good shepherd. And I know my sheep' (that is,
I love them) 'and my sheep know me.' It is as if he said plainly:
'Those who love me, obey me.' For those who do not love the
truth do not yet know it.
My dear brethren, now that you have heard of the test I must undergo,
consider how these words of the Lord imply a test of your own. Ask
yourselves if you are his sheep, if you know him, if you recognize the
light of truth. What I mean is that you recognize it not simply by
faith but by love, I mean, you recognize it not just by belief but by action.
For John the apostle, whose words we have been discussing, also said: 'He
who says he know God but disobeys his commandments is a liar.'
Consequently, in the passage we were originally considering, the Lord
at once adds: '...as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and
I lay down my life for the sheep.' It is as if he said straight
out: 'The proof that I know the Father and the Father knows me is the
fact that I lay down my life for my sheep; that is to say, the love which
leads me to die for my sheep shows how much I love the Father.'
He goes on to add the following words concerning the sheep: My sheep
hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give them eternal
life.' A little earlier he said also: If anyone enters by
me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.' That
is to say, he will go in to faith, and go out from faith to vision, from
belief to contemplation, and he will find pasture at the everlasting feast.
So the sheep find the Lord's pastures; for anyone who follows him with
an undivided heart is nourished in a pasture which is forever green.
What are the pastures of these sheep if they are not the deepest joys of
the everlasting fresh pastures of paradise? For the pasture of the
saints is to see God face to face; when the vision of God never fails,
the soul receives its fill of the food of life for ever.
And so, dear brethren, let us seek these pastures and there join in
the joy and the celebrations of so many citizens of heaven. Let their
happiness and rejoicing be an invitation to us. Let our hearts grow
warm, brethren, let our faith be rekindled, let our desires for heavenly
things grow warm; for to love like this is to be on the way.
No misforture should distract us from this happiness and deep joy; for
if anyone is anxious to reach a destination, the roughness of the road
will not make him change his mind. The charms of prosperity must
not lead us astray; for only a foolish traveller, when he sees pleasant
fields on his way, forgets to go on towards his destination.