“I am the Good Shepherd.” This is one of the names Jesus often used to describe himself and his mission. The Old Testament before him used this same image to describe God. So, Psalm 21 begins “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
During the Easter season the church favors portraying Jesus in symbolic ways: “I am the vine,” “I am the Bread of Life,” and the description of him in our gospel: “I am the Good Shepherd.” That is because we know the Risen Christ now, not by seeing him, but in signs and symbols.
The Good Shepherd is a many-faceted image. On one hand, Jesus says he is the shepherd who goes in search of his lost sheep, and when he finds it he cradles it tenderly in his arms and brings it back to the flock. However far we stray, he will search for us and lead us back to the safety and comfort of his presence.
But the shepherd also leads his sheep and guides them through “a dark valley” into experiences and ways they cannot know. So, during the Easter season we read the story of the journey of the early church. Now, as then, Jesus is the shepherd leading his church into paths unknown, until finally she comes into “green pastures.”
He will lead each of us on our journey. Like sheep we feed intently on the small plot of life our eyes fall on. But the Good Shepherd is never far from us. No, we do not see him; but he is always near. We can trust him, “the shepherd and guardian of our souls.”