The Good Shepherd


Kathy Gautcher

Jesus says in John 10: 14, "I am the Good Shepherd". Jesus is comparing Himself with a sheep herder, and in His day a sheep herder was not a respected vocation for a person to choose. Often they were looked down upon as second class citizens, so in a way Jesus is not saying much of anything good about who He is. If Jesus is the shepherd that makes us his sheep. Being called a sheep is not a very good compliment - as a matter of fact sheep are not very smart animals. They need constant care so they will not hurt themselves.

If we really take the time and read, study and pray over John 10:1-18, Ezekiel 34: 1-31 and Psalm 23 we will get a much better idea of what Jesus was talking about when He called himself the good Shepherd, and what a good shepherd does for his flock. Let’s take a look at some of the things Jesus says.

In the beginning of the parable of the good shepherd Jesus says that anyone who climbs over the fence of the sheepfold is a thief and a robber. The sheepfold was a wall made from rock formed in a circle. It was not very high, but high enough to keep the sheep in during the night. The sheep that belonged to the shepherd would have to go through the gate.

Jesus goes on to say that He is the gate for the sheep. The gate for the sheepfold was just a hole in the wall. Jesus says "A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep." After the shepherd had called his sheep into the sheepfold he would lay down in the opening and thus he became the gate to the sheepfold.

This parable is so rich and has much to say to us about God's love and mercy. Jesus literally laid down His life for us; "But God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8) In the Gospels Jesus gives us the perfect example of a shepherd's tender loving care of His flock. We cannot go to the Father and receive his mercy unless we go through the sheep gate and that is Jesus!!!! Jesus is the only way to the Father; Jesus stands between us and the Father. He is the gate through which we enter to become one with Him and the Father.

Now lets take a look at what the role of a father is using the example of our human family. The father is the one who is to be the main support of the family to meet the needs of the family. The father is the leader of the family, the one who gives his life loving and supporting his help-mate, his wife. The two of them working together raise the children that God has blessed them with. Part of raising children is disciplining them. When I was a child and had to be disciplined I always thought my dad was a little strange when he would say. "This is going to hurt me more than it does you.” In the first place, if it was going to hurt him, why would he spank (not beat) me? Second, I thought if he really loved me he would not want to spank me at all.

Geoffrey and I were never blessed with children. But as an adult I would much rather be around a child who has been disciplined than one who has gotten their own way all their life. I came to understand what my dad meant when he said it hurt him more than it did me. Out of love for me he would cause me some short lived pain, in hopes that it would teach me a lesson and help me to become a responsible adult. Today I am thankful for the discipline I had as a child.

That reminds me of a young mother, Diane, who worked for me at one time. She had just had her first child. Michael was the most beautiful child that had ever been created and Diane doted on him. One day she told me that she loved Michael so much she would never say no to him nor would she ever correct him. My thought was ‘I sure do not want to be around Michael when he gets to be a toddler and then a teen - No Way.’ One day, before Michael was a year old, Diane came into work very upset because she found out that this wonderful child was human after all. She had to correct him for something that he had done. It broke her heart, but she came to understand that to truly love a child you have to discipline, train and pray for them. Left to our own fallen nature we will become selfish, self seeking adults with no love or respect for anyone or anything.

So it is with God the Father. He created each and every one of us in His image and He loves us more than we will ever be able to truly understand. God loves us so much that he did not make us robots, but gave us a free will, the freedom to choose. As we live our lives day in and day out we are making the decision as to where we will spend eternity. God does desire to have each and every one of us spending eternity with Him. When we are open to God and allow Him, He will help us get rid of everything in our lives that is blocking or hampering our relationship with Him. This can be called our pruning. John 15 talks about the vine and the branches.

"I am the true vine and my Father is the vine grower." John 15:1 The verse goes on to say that every branch that does not grow and produce will be cut off or pruned away. The vine grower is not going to allow any unproductive branch to stay on the vine, he has to keep a close watch over the vine and keep the branches in order. If left to themselves they will grow wild and not be good for anything.
Is the Father punishing us when He prunes us and gets rid of our wild branches? Absolutely not. It is out of His tremendous love for us that he prunes, cleanses us. He does not want wild and unruly children in His kingdom. It is because of His great mercy that we are able to receive the pruning that we need in our lives to become more and more the image of the one who created us. The Holy Spirit speaks to us and helps us see what needs to be worked on in our lives. He is not out to get us, but wants to draw us into Himself.

This is what the shepherd does for us. He draws us closer to God. He teaches and corrects us and He protects us from the enemy, who is always out there waiting to snatch us. Our God is a mighty God and he is bigger than the enemy. Our role is to be open to the Holy Spirit and rely on God to take care of the enemy.

As Catholic Charismatic's we are often called to be shepherds for others. In 1984 I became involved in the renewal and I will always praise God for the woman he put in my life at that time to shepherd me. Sharon was open to the Spirit and she was there for me, to nurture me, to correct me when I needed it. Sharon was there to explain things I did not understand and she is the one who encouraged me to take part in leadership. When the Diocesan Service team was looking for new members to serve on the team Sharon recommended me!!

I really do believe that if Sharon had not been open to the Spirit and taken the time to mentor, shepherd, and be my friend, I would not be where I am today. We all need to be open to the Spirit and allow the Spirit to use us as shepherds. When we bring someone to Jesus and they give their life to Him, they need someone to walk with them. The greatest harm we can do to someone is bring them through a life in the spirit seminar and then leave them high and dry. We all need someone to help us get past the milk and on to solid food. 1Corinthians 3:2, "I feed you milk, not solid food, because you were unable to take it." A baby can only drink milk, but as the child grows and gets stronger the child will be ready to receive solid food. It will take awhile before the child can eat all solid food. It takes time and growth. We too, as we grow spiritually, start to want more solid food.

After our Baptism in the Spirit there is a grace period, a honey moon if you please. We love God and God loves us and it is a wonderful time, but it will not last. Christianity is not a ‘high’; it is not a series of warm fuzzy feelings. Christianity is hard work day in and day out. A shepherd will help us grow when the honey moon is over. He will be there when the enemy starts to attack us. A shepherd will be there showing us how to fight the good fight, to run the race.

My friend Sharon was and still is a holy woman of God. I could trust what she said because I saw her at daily Mass. She was receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus often. She was devoted to our Lady and encouraged me to develop a relationship with mother Mary. Sharon was a woman of prayer and her answer was always “lets pray about it.” Sharon read and studied the bible daily. She had a great love for the church and respect for our priests and the Holy Father. Sharon is a solid Catholic and she loves her church.

Sharon was open to the movement of the Holy Spirit, but I also was open to the movement of the Spirit in my life. I was like the author of the 42nd. Psalm "As a deer longs for the running waters, so my soul longs for you, O God. Athirst is my soul for God, the living God."

If Sharon said there is a conference and you should try to go, I made sure I was there. If she thought I should go to a retreat, a day of renewal, an evening at Woman's Aglow, I was there. Any book she suggested I read, any tape she gave me to listen to I listened. I was open and hungry for God and Sharon was the one who was willing to walk with me.

I share this with you because if we are going to be open to the Spirit and be shepherds of others we have to be living on solid food, daily scripture and prayer time. We need to be receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus as often as we can. We need to be receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation as often as we can. (Recommended at least once a month) Besides the Sacraments we also need to be faithful to our prayer groups and communities where we will be fed through worship, teaching and sharing from week to week. It is at the prayer meeting that you receive and will be able to feed others in turn.
We all need the Good Shepherd to lead and guide us. For the Lord said, “Without me you can do nothing.” We need to be open to the Spirit, the Good Shepherd, to become shepherds of others, helping them to grow so they in turn can become shepherds to others.

"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," John 10: 14-15

From the Diocese of Marquette Michigan, U.P. Catholic Charismatic Newsletter (Summer 2002)