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Home Sections The Daily B.R.E.A.D. The Good Shepherd’s Love for St. Peter’s Successors
The Good Shepherd’s Love for St. Peter’s Successors PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - The Daily B.R.E.A.D.
Saturday, 12 April 2008 15:07

Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and entrusts Peter and his successors with the government of his Church to continue his mission on earth.


This Sunday’s liturgy centers upon the image of the Good Shepherd. The Shepherd’s sacrifice gave life to his sheep and brought them back to the fold. Years later St. Peter confirmed Christians in their faith by reminding them in the midst of persecution what Christ had done and suffered for them: By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls (1 Pet 2:25). And so the whole Church prays that the continuing work of our Redeemer (will) bring us eternal joy (Prayer over the Gifts), and asks God the Father to give us new strength from the courage of Christ our shepherd, and lead us to join the saints in heaven (Opening Prayer).

The early Christians had a special affection for the image of the Good Shepherd, and have left us countless testimonies of it in the catacombs and on many well-known ancient buildings through murals, reliefs, gravestone etchings, mosaics and sculptures. This Sunday’s liturgy invites us to meditate on our Savior’s merciful tenderness, so that we recognize the rights he acquired over each one of us by his death. It is also a good opportunity to consider in our prayer our love for the good shepherds whom he has left to guide us and keep us in his name.

The Old Testament frequently refers to the Messiah as a good Shepherd who must feed, rule and govern God’s people, often abandoned and scattered. The prophecies of the awaited shepherd are fulfilled in Jesus, but in him with new features. He is the Good Shepherd who gives his life for his sheep and provides other shepherds to continue his mission. As opposed to thieves who seek their own interests and destroy the flock, Jesus is the door of salvation (cf John 10:10); he who enters will find abundant pasture (cf John 10:9-10). There is a tender relationship between Jesus the Good Shepherd and his sheep: he calls each by his name; he leads them; the sheep follow because they know his voice; he is the one and only shepherd who has only one flock (cf John 10:16), protected by the Father’s love (cf John 10:29). He is the chief Shepherd (1 Pet 5:4).

In his last appearance before the Ascension, the risen Christ made Peter the shepherd of his flock (cf John 21:15-17), the Church’s guide. In this way the prophecy made to Peter before the Passion was fulfilled: But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren (Luke 22:32). Then he prophesied that as a good shepherd he would die for his flock.

Jesus’ words to Peter — feed my lambs feed my sheep — explain Peter’s mission as one of guarding Our Lord’s whole flock without limitations. Feed is equivalent to ‘direct and govern’. Peter is made the shepherd and guide for the whole Church. As the Second Vatican Council points out, Jesus Christ put Peter at the head of the other Apostles, and in him he set up a lasting and visible source and foundation of the unity of both faith and communion (Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium, 18).

 

With permission from Scepter UK.  Short excerpt from IN CONVERSATION WITH GOD by Francis Fernandez.  

 
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Last Updated on Saturday, 12 April 2008 15:18
 

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