How the Good Shepherd Teaches Us to Face Our Fears and Find Protection (Gospel Reflection)

by Faith & Life, Gospels

One of the best ways to enrich your experience at Sunday Mass is to pray the Gospel Reading personally.

A great way of doing this is using the technique of Lectio Divina, a powerful method which we explain here. The following is the Sunday Gospel reading with a reflection that is especially aimed at youth.

We hope that it serves you in your personal prayer and that it serves as a resource that you can share with your apostolate.

Gospel of the Fourth Sunday of Easter (John 10: 1-10)

Jesus said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” Although Jesus used this figure of speech, the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them.

So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”


Open when I knock – Augustine

Sometimes life becomes a complex labyrinth, from which we frantically seek an escape. I’m always struck by that metallic voice over the airplane intercom before takeoff: the nearest exit may be behind you!

We often find ourselves in need of an emergency exit from complex or trying situations that inevitably, sooner or later, we must confront. Sometimes however we are so concentrated on our own fears or we are so convinced that we’re going in the right direction towards the exit that we risk getting trapped inside the wreck.

What is it that brings us to the nearest exit? The voice of the flight attendant tells us that the lighted path will guide us out. In a certain sense, this Gospel should be the lighted path that guides us to true life.

In the times of fear and uncertainty that we must cross through, we discover two fundamental needs: the need to be recognized, that is, to hear a friendly and familiar voice that lets us know that we are not alone, and the need for safety keeps us from losing heart.

In our lives, if it is true that the Lord marks the lighted path we must follow and he calls us by name to guide us towards the good, it is also true however that there are thieves and robbers that try to keep us from getting away.

These thieves and robbers can be found, first of all, within ourselves… They are our fears, our square-mindedness, our rigid plans; they are the ideas that steal our strength and prevent us from reaching our true home, like the ideas that the disciples of Emmaus were caught up in.

But these thieves and robbers are also around us… They are those that abuse their power, those that prefer destroying to building up, those that frighten us with their threats. They are instruments, sometimes unknowingly, of an evil that has ensnared them and prevents them from choosing wisely.

gospel reflection

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If we are interested in staying close to the true shepherd we will be able to distinguish his voice even in turbulent times!

The true shepherd reassures us and welcomes us into a place where we can let go of our anxieties. The sheepfold has boundaries. It is a symbol of a relationship, like that of the garden at the beginning of creation. A healthy relationship however is one that has doors to come and go by. Our relationships often have no doors and become possessive and asphyxiating. Their boundaries are like prison walls. But our relationship with Jesus gives life because it is free. In Biblical language, to come in and to go out is an expression that indicates life. Healthy relationships are those whose doors are clearly marked.

Recalcati wrote that the place par excellence where our needs to be recognized and reassured are met is in the eyes of our mother. In the figure of the mother we find all those who are give us life and freedom. The relationship between mother and child becomes the model of every relationship from which we receive life without feeling controlled.

The fable of Little Red Riding Hood teaches us the same lesson: though the forest is dangerous and the wolf probably lives there, the mother does not prevent her daughter from leaving her side, but lets her go, encouraging her, assuring her. It is precisely that recognition and that bond of love that permits every Little Red Riding Hood to confront the forest and the wolves.

Jesus too sends us out like lambs among wolves. His words are honest; he does not try to hide the difficulty of life from us. If we are lambs, what can we possibly do when confronted by wolves? Perhaps we can cry for help for the shepherd knows us and he will hear our voice. He will come to save us, guiding us by a lighted path. We must pay close attention then because the nearest escape may be behind us.

Questions for Personal Meditation:

  • What do you seek when life’s difficulties frighten you?
  • What is the path the Lord is showing you today?

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