Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter

(Acts 11:1-18; John 10:1-10)

Cardinal, soon to be “Blessed,” John Henry Newman clarified how logical argument seldom moves anyone to belief. Most often, he wrote, “informal inference” -- feeling, intuition, and unconscious motivation -- are necessary for one to accept the faith. Jesus certainly understood the need for non-rational motivation as he preached with vibrant images like the “good shepherd” and, what we hear today, the “gatekeeper.”

Sometimes preachers try to explain the roles of “good shepherd” and “gatekeeper” as the same, but the attempt is in vain. Jesus uses both images to indicate the different ways in which he is there for us. In the passage which begins in today’s gospel he will call himself the “good shepherd,” the one who leads his sheep to life. But now he refers to himself as the “gatekeeper” or “gate” with two functions. First, he only lets those shepherds whom he knows and calls – people like Peter – to care for his sheep. And second, he also allows the sheep to go out and pasture. He knows when it is safe to do so and when it is necessary to stay in the sheepfold under his watchful eye. In this way the sheep under his care will have abundant life.

Very few of us live in bucolic society, and even if we did, shepherding is not the same as it was in Jesus’ time. Yet these images resonate with us. We know that many wander through life without much sense of its purpose. Those who manage to clarify a goal sometimes get helplessly sidetracked. Accepting Jesus as our keeper and shepherd saves us from becoming so lost.