The May Gospel Discourses
May 7 – Fourth Easter: John 10: 1 – 10 – The Good Shepherd
Then they threw him [the man born blind] out.
When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him and the one speaking with you is he.” John 9:35-37
Today’s Gospel introduces the metaphor of a sheepfold to describe the community of Christ living within that other metaphor we used describing our every day world as a narrow corridor of habit, a zone of custom, sealed shut, of limited expectations, myopic, everything objectified, time experienced as the news of the day, of language gone stale, of behavior become indifferent to ethics, dangerous, but always with the “best of excuses.”
Within such a corridor, such a world, the Church offers us a fold, a safe zone within which the Spirit of Christ, the Paraclete, keeps alive our faith, hope and desire for a wider existence. But even this sheepfold can be the target of thieves who can undermine, shake the faith, hope and love cultivated within the fold; strangers may infiltrate – in sheep’s clothing.
It’s Jesus, who has already risen from the grave, beyond the confines of this life defined as a windowless, perpetual corridor of forgetfulness, who describes himself as the gate, the way out, who as the Good Shepherd speaks in often subtle ways, subtle experiences (as when I picked up that pamphlet) in a voice that we sheep begin slowly to understand, who knows each of us by name – who leads us out into the wider reality of a gracious God, a gracious universe, green pastures, beside still waters – a life more abundant, where metaphor is the lingua franca.
Or I could put it this way: he gets us off the crowded bus based on an incident when my younger son Philip – only 6 years old – stood down on the inside step of the bus’ front door as it pulled up to our stop and simultaneously, as the bus door sprang open, shouted “Open Sesame”. And a laugh of universal delight broke out among the weary home-from-work passengers.