|Celebrate - Sieger Koder|
The Fourth Sunday of Easter is traditionally kept as Good Shepherd Sunday. Each year in the Lectionary cycle, on this Sunday, the Church reads from the tenth Chapter of John’s Gospel. It is the Chapter in which Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd, the one who knows all of his sheep by name, the one who will pasture the sheep and lead them to safety, the one who will be the gate through which the sheep will enter into the sheepfold. These are beautiful images which portray for us a God of love who cares individually and communally for his sheep. Jesus is the Good Shepherd as he himself expresses, in his famous parable called the Lost Sheep. He is the one who will go after the lost and bring them back. In the English language, the noun ‘sheep’ remains unchanged whether it is describing one sheep or many. As such it expresses perfectly both the singularity as well as the plurality of what being an individual within a community means - identifiable as unique while at the same time being commensurate and united with one another.
A similar thought came into my mind when I was thinking about how God loves us and I wondered what word can be used to describe such love. It needs to be a word that not only defines us individually but also in our discipleship, by capturing that same sense of singularity and plurality which is so powerful an expression of our witness. When Jesus was baptised the sound of the Father’s voice was heard speaking these words ‘ This is my son, the beloved, my favour rests on him’. The Father calls, or if you like names his son, 'Beloved'. It is a moment of deep tenderness and revelation. It is the moment when every baptised who becomes a member of the body of Christ is identified and is named 'beloved'. In the Gospel of John at he foot of the cross there stand two persons who symbolically represent the beginning, the birth of the Church. They are the mother of Jesus and the beloved disciple, the disciple whom Jesus loved. This moment is a moment of baptism, a sacramental initiation of the coming into being of the new people of God, of the new community of believers who are themselves beloved of the Father, the Son and the Spirit, the triune God who brings them into being.
This calling remains with us. Many times in his letters to his communities, St Paul addresses his readers as the ‘beloved’ of God. It is our title too, as both unique individuals and as the community of believers at work in the world. We may currently be scattered and apart, but we know that Jesus the Good Shepherd, the beloved one, will gather us together once more. We will enter our Churches as sheep returning into the fold, to enjoy that unity and shared love that as the beloved children of God we so need.
Happy Good Shepherd Sunday.