Word of Explanation :
In the Gospel of St. John, Jesus tells the Pharisees a parable about sheep and shepherd. The true Shepherd that Jesus describes, enters by the gate without any cover. He knows the sheep and calls each by name because each one is unique for him, each one receives his care. He makes them go out, as Moses, also a shepherd, had led the people out of Egypt. "To lead out" signifies to liberate, to deliver and save. As for the sheep, they listen to the shepherd ?s voice and follow him : listen and obey, like good disciples !
In this discourse, Jesus presents himself as the true Shepherd who gives his life for the sheep, as the gate through which they can enter to receive salvation and go to the Father.
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Jesus applies the symbol of both Shepherd and gate to himself. He is the gateway through which one can go to the Father. He is also the Shepherd who takes care of the sheep. What does the one who hears his voice and enters through him, gain ? He is saved : on one hand, he can go in and out with entire liberty ?because he has been freed - ; on the other hand, he finds pasture : a place of rest, of stability. The gift to us is life in abundance.
In the Old Testament, God already figured as the Shepherd of his People : The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want, Psalm 22 has us pray. This Psalm celebrates God as the one who takes care of us. In the first part of the Psalm, God is the Pastor ; in the second, the one who offers hospitality. God, the Shepherd, protects from evil ; the God Host gives peace and happiness. The places mentionned suggest a spiritual itinerary : peaceful places, fresh water and grassy spaces for rest ? all that is opposed to the symbol of danger : the valley of death ? but even there, God is near. The table prepared and the house of God are symbols of a happiness that will not pass.
The shepherd is not the one who journeys without the sheep, but the one who makes the path for the good of the sheep ? and does this for his name’s sake. The sheep have priority, the shepherd is at their service. The Psalm reveals a God who serves humankind. The shepherd can choose the paths that are not dangerous for the sheep, even if the way is difficult for the shepherd. God is like that : God leads us along ways that are not of his choosing and ease but which suit our rhythm and our possibilities. So the Psalm is an invitation to abandon oneself to God, to trust even when we don’t understand or know the way. For, wherever God leads is the way that fits us. This, on account of his name : the name reveals the person, corresponds to the reality and truth of the person. God leqds us by the right way according to who God is, and what is good for us - because God wants to reveal himself to us and not because we have merited it.
If God is like this, the cry of confidence in v. 4 is fitting. The Psalm invites us to be without fear even in the dark valley because God is with us. The presence of God makes death flee. With God, we can pass through death without being locked in fear. Even when we imagine the pangs and trial of death, a frightening spectre, the psalmist proclaims an unconditional faith in the Lord.
As we pray this Psalm, Lord Jesus, we contemplate who you are : you are the true Shepherd ; with you, we lack nothing and you even give your life for your sheep. You are the right road, the way the truth and the life. Yes, Lord, I lack nothing because you are with me. You are my security and I will dwell in your house forever.