Some time ago a Hollywood newspaper ran an article entitled “Jesus in Film and TV: 13 Devilishly Handsome Actors Who’ve Played the Son of God.”
The article showed pictures of all the devilishly handsome actors who played Jesus in the movies or on television in recent years. To tell the truth, none of them looked like Jesus to me.
In his Letter to the Philippians St. Paul says that Jesus took on the form of a slave. That seems to mean that if we met him on the street, we wouldn’t recognize him. He would look like one of the crowd. Jesus may not have been particularly handsome, but of course Hollywood can’t believe that. We’re so sure that looks, appearances, image are everything.
Jesus describes himself as a shepherd, a good shepherd, in today’s gospel. Now, I don’t know too much about shepherds or what they look like, but from the little I know they’re not a particularly handsome group. They’re men who spend most of their time outside in the cold or the heat; weather-beaten, scruffy looking, with little time or reason for grooming themselves– not much to look at. It’s a tough job, being a shepherd.
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 the ones 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:
“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.”
Let’s listen to his voice. He’s never far away.