In today’s gospel on Good Shepherd Sunday, Jesus gives two images for us to reflect on. The first image is today’s namesake. He calls himself the Good Shepherd. He is the one who opens the gate for the sheep. In this Easter season, it is fitting to reflect upon Jesus, who opens the gates of Heaven for all people who accept Him. Yet, opening the gate is not the only job of the shepherd. The shepherd has to herd the sheep and lead them.
As Jesus points out, the shepherd leads in the front, and the sheep follow his voice, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him. This leads us to examine our hearts. Do I know Jesus’ voice? Do we spend time in prayer daily? Do we encounter Him in Sacred Scripture? Do we experience Him in the sacraments? Do we recognize Him in the poor and their needs? If we are not doing these things, we do not know the voice of Jesus. And if we do not know His voice we cannot follow Him.
Yet, Jesus knows that the journey to paradise cannot be achieved by any of our merits. Our flawed and sinful natures prevent us from entering the perfection of the holy life. So Jesus shows us the way. He becomes the gate. Not only does He lead us, He is the way through which we enter salvation. There is no salvation for us without Him. As we reflected on during Holy Week, to enter into Jesus’ life is to take up our cross. Jesus’ life was centered on the greatest act of love that He could give, His life. By giving us His Church and the sacraments, Jesus allows us to enter the divine gift of life through Him, just like the sheep gate. For if we die with Him, we will also rise with Him.
There is no other way. Those who try to enter into heaven without Jesus, or by following their own voice will not be successful. It is essential to know Jesus if we would like to enter into eternal life because that is what eternal life is: a loving relationship with God forever. This Earth is the time period that God reveals His Love to us through the person of Jesus. In turn, we get the opportunity to accept or reject this love. The Good Shepherd has proven His love and that He is the way, will we follow His path?