Monday of week 4 of Easter – Gospel

Commentary on John 10:1-10

“Two kinds of sheepfolds or corrals are mentioned in today’s reading.  In the common town sheepfold, the shepherd makes his special call and his sheep follow him out confidently.  Out on the range, however, the shepherd sleeps across the corral opening: his body is the protecting door.  So we live, pray and are saved through Jesus our Good Shepherd.” (Vatican II Missal)

We now jump from chapter 7 to chapter 10, omitting the whole episode linked with Jesus as the Light of the World and the dramatic healing of the man born blind, texts which we reflected on during Lent in relation to Baptism.

We begin today to consider two images that Jesus gives of himself: the first is that of a gate and the second that of a shepherd.

We have to imagine a sheepfold as an area surrounded by walls or wooden fencing but open to the sky, and with only one entrance.  The walls kept the sheep from wandering and protected them from wild animals at night.  Only a genuine shepherd enters the sheepfold through the single gate.  Thieves and brigands will try to enter by another way, such as by climbing over the walls or breaking through the fence.

“All who came before me are thieves and robbers but the sheep do not listen to them.”  Jesus is referring to all the “false shepherds”, including some of the Pharisees and religious leaders of his time who are quite unlike the true prophets of the past.

The real shepherd, however, enters by the gate and is recognised and admitted by the gatekeeper (the one mentioned above who sleeps across the entrance).  There are many sheep in the sheepfold belonging to different shepherds so the shepherd calls his own sheep out one by one.  He then walks ahead of them and they follow their shepherd because they know his voice.  They never follow strangers.  (This is quite different from the European or Australian custom where the sheep are driven from behind.)

We are told that his hearers failed to understand the meaning of what Jesus said.  They failed to realise that the parable applied particularly to the religious leaders.

So he spoke more clearly: “I AM the gate of the sheepfold.”  Here we have the second of the seven ‘I AM’ (‘ego eimi ) statements made by Jesus in this gospel.  Again Jesus’ points to his divine origin by using the name of God which was given to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14).

On the contrary, Jesus, as the Gate, the Way, has come “that they may have life and have it to the full.”  This is a constant theme we have heard many times already and especially in chapter 6 about Jesus as the food and nourishment giving us life.

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