Christ the Good Shepherd
I am the Good Shepherd; and I know my sheep (that is, I love them) and my sheep know me. It is as if he said plainly: "Those who love me obey me." For those who do not love the truth do not yet know it.
My dearly beloved, now that you have heard of the test I must undergo, consider how these words of the Lord imply a test of your own. Ask yourselves if you are his sheep, if you know him, if you recognize the light of truth What I mean, you recognize it not just by belief but by action. For John the apostle, whose words we have been discussing, also said: He who says he knows God but disobeys his commandments is a liar.
Consequently, in the passage we were originally considering, the Lord at once adds: "... just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. It is as if he said straight out: "The proof that I know the Father and the Father knows me is the fact that I lay down my life for the sheep; that is to say, the love which leads me to lay down my life for my sheep shows how much I love the Father."
He goes on to add the following words: My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me and I give them eternal life. A little earlier he said also: If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. That is to say, he will go in to faith and go out to vision, from belief to contemplation, and he will find pasture at the everlasting feast.
So the sheep find the Lord's pastures; for anyone who follows him with an undivided heart is nourished in a pasture that is forever green. What are the pastures of these sheep if they are not the deepest joys of the everlasting fresh pastures of paradise? For the pasture of the saints is to see God face to face; when the vision of God never fails, the soul receives its fill of the food of life for ever.
And so, my dearly beloved, let us seek these pastures and there join in the joy and the celebrations of so many citizens in heaven. Let their happiness and rejoicing be an invitation to us. Let our hearts grow warm, beloved, let our faith be rekindled, let our desires for heavenly things grow warm; for to love like this is to be on the way.
No misfortune should distract us from this happiness and deep joy; for if anyone is anxious to reach a destination, the roughness of the road will not make him change his mind. The charms of prosperity must not lead us astray; for only a foolish traveler, when he sees pleasant fields along the way, forgets to go on to his destination.
Gregory the Great (540-604)
Gregory the Great was born around 540 to a noble Christian family in Rome. He used his skills as a talented administrator within church for the welfare of the Roman people, providing charitable relief for the poor and for refugees fleeing the barbarian incursions in Lombardy. As bishop of Rome, Gregory re-energized the Church's missionary work among the pagan peoples of northern Europe in Anglia, Saxony and Germany. He also wrote several biblical commentaries, various liturgical works and a practical rule for pastors.
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
though your people walk in the valley of darkness,
no evil should they fear;
for they follow in faith the call of the Shepherd,
whom you have sent for their hope and strength.
Attune our minds to the sound of his voice,
lead out steps in the path he has shown,
that we may know the strength of his outstretched arm
and enjoy the light of your presence for ever.
We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.