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Jesus the Good Shepherd: Leadership Based on Belonging than Authority

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Easter -4B, 22 April 2018
Acts 4:8-12//1John 3:1-2//John 10:11-18

Something funny happened to me last week that almost spoiled my Good Shepherd Sunday today. I was at FullyBooked browsing on some new titles when something caught my attention that sent fears through my body. Did I get the title right because if it were true, I would not want to be a leader or shepherd in the Church anymore…

I am referring to Simon Sinek’s “Leaders Eat Last” which is about the leadership style of the US Marine Corps that is also very evident among other successful organizations examined by the author. According to Sinek who had written an earlier book called “Start With Why”, great leaders always sacrifice their interests for the good of those in their care who in turn get motivated to work harder in achieving their goals as a team. While browsing on the book, I remembered in our recent Holy Week celebrations that Jesus ate last during His supper as He took bread, blessed it and gave it to His disciples to eat. What a relief when I found that the book is not titled “Leaders Eat Less” after all!!!

Every year the fourth Sunday of Easter is dedicated as “Good Shepherd Sunday” when the readings are taken from the fourth Gospel’s tenth chapter. The shepherd is the most ancient imagery of leadership in the Mediterranean region where Jesus had lived. In fact, His earliest images in the liturgy were that of a Good Shepherd as portrayal of His crucifixion would only come later following the developments of our theology. And if we examine the trend among most leadership and management gurus today, their teachings have always been “values based” rather than then old scheme of authority. And when we talk of values, no one comes closest to Jesus Christ the “Good Shepherd” wherein His style has always been based on relationships rather than authority and power.

Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.”(Jn.10:11-15)

Here we find the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as a leader: He lays down His life for the sheep because He is one with us. There is “belongingness” or oneness in His relationship with us based on His relationship with the Father. Unlike the hired man who runs away at the sight of grave danger because his is purely professional in relationship with the sheep. For the Jews, to know a person is more than “cerebral knowledge” of a person but more of having or being into a personal relationship or ties. To claim that you know somebody is more than knowing the name of a person but being personal known to him/her. Only Jesus has personal knowledge and relationship with the Father in heaven as He explained in John 6 as well as in His last supper discourse. It is from this deep relationship and unity with the Father that Jesus Christ can claim His knowing us His sheep. Therefore, in Jesus Christ we all belong to the Father who is the starting and end point of our every human relationship whether in friendships, family and matrimony.

Jesus is reminding us today that for us to truly see our true selves, we have to see first our oneness in Him and with Him in the Father. Without God, we would never fully realize our true self which is also one of the main points of Pope Francis in his new letter, “Gaudete et Exultate” (Rejoice and be glad): “Let the grace of your baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness. Let everything be open to God; turn to him in every situation. Do not be dismayed… When you feel the temptation to dwell on your own weaknesses, raise your eyes to Christ crucified and say, ‘Lord, I am a poor sinner, but you can work the miracle of making me a little bit better.’”(15) Jesus the Good Shepherd wants us all to be holy, to be filled with His Spirit, to be with the Father not later but right now! Jesus is the Good Shepherd we have always prayed to as “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; he makes me lie down in green pastures.”(Ps.23)

Going back to that book “Leaders Eat Last”, there is a chapter on how to relate with millennials who are rightly described as “better than most of us.” I agree. Every generation has its own “flavor” or taste. I have come to accept that. If Jesus were with us today, He might have told Peter and company “feed my geeks” instead of “feed my sheep.” Anyway, one thing Sinek is claiming that millennials should first do is to reduce their too much dependence on gadgets and technology. That is absolutely right: persons are irreplaceable. There are some people who would die for things but there has never been any thing to have died for a person. This is one of the stumbling blocks in many relationships today among parents and children, the generation gap when many young people seem to relate more via gadgets and technology than on a personal level. Jesus the Good Shepherd is reminding us today about our ties with Him and with others. He knows us all perfectly that He had said during the last supper that “it was I who chose you not you who chose me.” Try to reflect on our relationships: there has always been Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd like an “invisible hand” leading many men and women to their husband or wife, long lost friends getting reconnected, and even families and relatives being reunited. People who come to our lives always come from God; and, true friends always lead others closer not away from God. Problem with us is when we force the people sent to us by God into relationships not really intended for. This is the meaning of belonging to Jesus the Good Shepherd: unlike things that “belong” to us as objects to be possessed and owned while persons like friends, siblings, children, parents, husband or wife “belong” to us as subjects to be cherished and loved. Jesus led us all to the Father; in the same manner as shepherds, we have to lead others to the Father too through Jesus Christ. This is the essence of Peter’s speech after Pentecost which we have heard in the first reading: the healing of the crippled man is not due to magic powers but through the person of Jesus Christ. The miracle happened to lead them to Jesus, not to the apostles.

Once again we hear the beloved disciple of the Lord, St. John tenderly assuring us today of the Father’s great love on us that we have become His children. Today we try to reflect on whose voices are we following in this life. There is only one voice to follow, that of the Good Shepherd. When we allow Jesus Christ’s shepherding love and presence to really enter into our hearts, then we realize we belong to the Father as His children, that we are one family cherishing each other, willing to sacrifice for one another like Jesus in the name of love. Amen.

Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista
Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta.Maria
Bulacan 3022