Life & Soul

Christ is our Shepherd. He cares about each one of us

The Good Shepherd (1902-1903) by African-American painter Henry Ossawa Tanner

Our limited imaginations will always struggle to grasp the all-embracing nature of Christ’s Resurrection. Life’s inevitable wounds and our failings leave us with a longing for comfortable boundaries. On the basis of such unconscious boundaries we determine who is acceptable and who is not, who is to be welcomed and who avoided. In Christ, the Risen Lord, such boundaries are broken down. “For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ.”

Thus the power of the Risen Lord, alive in the early Church, soon reached far beyond the boundaries of Palestine. When Paul and Barnabas arrived in Antioch, their proclamation of the Resurrection, although at first begun in the synagogue, was soon embraced by a wider Gentile population.

The synagogue, with an all-too-human desire to control and restrict access, resisted Paul and Barnabas. They, in their turn, proclaimed the Risen Lord as the revelation of the Father’s boundless generosity. “For this is what the Lord commanded us to do when he said: ‘I have made you a light for the nations, so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’ Thus the Word of the Lord spread through all the countryside.”

The dynamism of this all-embracing power, as described in the Book of Revelation, gathers unto itself all peoples in every generation. “I, John, saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language. They were standing in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands.” The vision goes on to describe this multitude as those to whom the Lord “will be a shepherd, leading them to springs of living water”.

The image of Christ as shepherd underlines the truly personal dimension of our relationship with our Risen Lord. “I am the Good Shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep.”

Such generous love invites us, with the Lord, to reach out to the stranger. “And there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and I must lead these too.”