Today’s gospel includes one of the seven “I Am” declarations Jesus made to describe himself as the fulfillment of the promised Messiah, the Son of God. God revealed himself as “I Am” to Moses, and no first-century Jew would have missed the gravity of what Jesus was saying to them. God, in the flesh, came down to the ground of the commonplace to show us the way back to our Garden-identity as his beloved creation.
The particular images of Jesus as The Gate and The Good Shepherd are what I kindle to the most. My fondest memories of my past are of climbing Fig trees, walking through meadows, wading in streams, and climbing mountains, swimming through oceans. Those experiences in nature were, and continue to be, the portals to seeing God’s beauty and goodness. They draw me into the lofty expanse of God as my Creator and me as his created beloved. I can’t help but desire to love him and enjoy him forever when I meditate on Creation.
A long time ago, the LORD invited me to behold the beauty and goodness of the pastoral landscape of England. As I would trek through the hillside and meadows, I would often encounter kissing gates in the low stone walls that marked the boundaries of the terrain. The design of the kissing gate allows humans to pass in and out of pastures, but due to its unique design, they effectively prevent sheep from using the gate to enter another shepherd’s pasture. You’ll have to goggle the image to understand the swing action in the design of the gate. I’m just setting up the scene so that we can further appreciate what Jesus is declaring to us, his sheep.
It was on those treks that the beauty and goodness of the Creator led me to the consoling truth of Jesus Christ as my Shepherd as I recalled the many references to The Lord, as my Good Shepherd found in Sacred Scripture. I invite you to pray with me through the gospel according to St. John 10:1-10
[Jesus said to the disciples] Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit…
Beloved, I AM The Gate. You are safe with me here inside my sanctuary. I lead you by still water; I restore your soul. Why are you distracted by the thieves that would steal your peace? They are not welcome here; they do not enter here. Will you fix your gaze on me?
The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out...
Beloved, I AM your Shepherd. I call you; I’ve engraved your name on my hand; I know every hair on your head. I know every longing of your heart. I am beside you, leading you out from what you thought you were. You are malnourished from feeding in the wilderness. I saw you rootle around for everything you thought would tell you who you are. I AM your Good Shepherd, come to me, let me heal you and renew you, and transform you in this meadow replete with my goodness and mercy. I desire to lead you? Will you follow me and graze in this meadow?
When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers ...
Beloved, I AM not a stranger to you; why are you uncertain about what I say about you? Why do you still listen to the voices from the past who lied to you about who you are? Why do you listen to the voices of your present that want to steal your name and cause you to be afraid? Draw close to me and learn to know my voice; I will lead you where you should go.
Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly...
Beloved, I AM the Gate! I AM the Shepherd! It is me that you seek. It is me that your heart desires. Will you believe what I say about you?
How is it with you today, friend? Where do you fix your gaze? Is it causing you to fear and doubt?
Are you rooting around in a wasteland of regret and shame? Does the emptiness you feel cause you to hunger for the grace, mercy, and love that only Christ can feed you?
Do you feel far from home? In exiled because of your pride, fear, or anger? Is the exile leading you toward the death of your spirit?
Pray with me, friend.
You are my Shepherd LORD, I shall not want.
You make me lie down in green pastures;
You lead me beside still waters;
You restore my soul.
You lead me on right paths
for your name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be, world without end.