audio homily here:
I met the Italian film director Mimmo Mancini some years ago who was getting ready to film “Ameluk” a film about a Holy Week procession in an Italian town. It was released in Italy last year. As I remember the story the handsome Jesus selected to take part in the procession had an accident and was replaced by a Muslim from Palestine who, for reasons you might guess, didn’t fit the bill with the locals and a lot others. Part of it was he wasn’t handsome enough. We’re so sure that looks, appearances, image are everything.
“I am the good shepherd,” Jesus says in today’s gospel. Now I don’t know too much about shepherds, what they look like, but from what I know I don’t believe they’re a particularly handsome group. They spend most of their time outside in the cold or heat; weather-beaten, scruffy looking, with few opportunities for grooming themselves, not much to look at. Tough job being a shepherd. Yet, it’s hard for us to imagine that Jesus didn’t look like a Hollywood movie star.
But the good shepherd cares for his sheep. That’s what Jesus does; he cares for his sheep. He cares for his sheep no matter what the weather, cold or hot. He makes the journey with them, no matter how hard it is. He doesn’t abandon his sheep, no matter what. He searches for those who are lost and he looks for others to enter his flock.
That’s the way Jesus, the Risen Jesus, describes himself in John’s gospel today:
“I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
He’s not doing it for pay, he’s not someone hired, putting in his time, caring little for his sheep, ready to run away when the wolf comes and the sheep are scattered.
“I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,”
He knows his sheep, Jesus says, not in an impersonal way. He speaks and they hear his voice. ‘Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father,” he says, and “I will lay down my life from them.”