Fourth Sunday of Easter
One of my parishioners joined the presidential party for an international meeting of world leaders.  A riot threatened to destroy the order of the meeting and suddenly all the presidents and prime ministers of the nations were whisked in private helicopters to avoid harm.  These leaders left behind the presidential parties they organized to join them, each one of these subordinates scrambling for safety when the rioters came to storm the building.  My parishioner was unhurt physically but kept asking why his own leader abandoned him and his companions in that moment of danger.
News spread all over the world about a certain ship captain who traded his own freedom for the safety and release of his crew and passengers when pirates attacked their vessel.  Many commentators hailed this heroic act as a proof of real service and sacrifice still present in the world. While there have been different versions of the plight of this captain and crew, one thing is sure, he did not abandon his people.
Today’s Easter gospel takes us to the image of Jesus well-loved through the centuries of Christianity.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the shepherd of souls who never abandons his flock. As my parishioner was relating his terror-filled experience in that meeting of world leaders, my mind wandered off to the gospel description of Jesus, who instead of retreating to save his life, advanced forward to offer his life for us his brothers and sisters. The ship captain is like a refreshing reflection of the attitude of Jesus who loves and gives his own life as powerful witness of his love.
Many of us have seen pictures or images of Jesus lovingly carrying a wounded sheep on his shoulders, bringing it back to the company of the flock. We see a tender Lord who nourishes the weak and protects them from evil and danger.  When we look at the cross too, what we see is a portrayal of the Good Shepherd who takes the place of the sheep to be slaughtered and dies in its place.  The entire life of Jesus is all about giving and sharing and loving so that others may live abundantly and meaningfully.
We look to people in leadership for the image of the Good Shepherd. This is the reason why we go through the process of the ballot in electing public officials.  This is the same reason why we pin our hopes on our church leaders when they lead our communities to the fullness of faith.  At the same time, we are always conscious that we too, are leaders and examples to other people who encounter us and behold our conduct and behavior.  We are all shepherds of one another, whether we like it or not.
This is the first Sunday that I am detached from a parish community and I find myself without a “flock”.  I start a new ministry that takes me from the parish to another form of service. I am still a shepherd but not in the usual sense of parish priest.  It feels strange to be detached from the community I have learned to love for the past four years of my life.  It feels really strange to be celebrating Mass for hundreds of people twice on a Sunday morning and then suddenly to be celebrating Mass for 2 religious sisters in the retreat house where I now reside as house director.
Jesus did not care whether he was protecting a single injured lamb or nursing a valuable pregnant ewe or protecting an entire flock of sheep from being devouring predators.  In just the same way, we too might be in charge of a small or a big family, a large or a downsized company, a few people around us or hundreds of workers or companions.  In any of these situations, we are called to be like Jesus, the Good Shepherd – in profound unity and with much concern for the good of others, proven by the way we give our lives and not by the way we protect our own interests.
As Good Shepherd, Jesus challenges us to be like him in loving and leading others to the Father.  In his mercy, we want to be truly like him and follow his example.