A Shepherd Like No Other | Christoph Cardinal Schonborn | IgnatiusInsight.comA Shepherd Like No Other | Christoph Cardinal Schonborn | A reflection on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, from Behold, God's Son!


The Gospel of John 10:11-18

[Jesus said,] "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father."

A Shepherd like No Other

In old photos of my homeland in Bohemia I see our shepherd, with his broad-brimmed hat and his loden coat, leaning against a tree, knitting a woolen sock. Beside him is his sheepdog, and all around the flock of sheep--it is a picture from a bygone age, a world not much different, essentially, from in Jesus' time. Only the wolves Jesus talks about, which used to prey on the flocks, are no longer to be found in our land. They were active for the last time in the cold winters of the twenties.

I know all that only from what old people tell me and from yellowing photos. Has the image of the good shepherd therefore become incomprehensible for us in today's world? I do not think so. I believe that what Jesus says about the good shepherd still stirs people's spirits just as much, even though the shepherd with his flock has become a rare sight. Perhaps this is because the good shepherd who cares for the sheep is a kind of archetypal image in our minds. It is probably also on account of the power of Jesus' own words. It is not the shepherd who makes clear what Jesus is saying, but vice versa: only through Jesus do we feel the full force and depth of the image of the good shepherd. For there is no shepherd like him.

"The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." What moves us about this image is the feeling of security we have. His sheep are just as important to this shepherd as his own life--even more important. At the critical moment he does not run away, does not abandon his charges in order to keep himself safe and save his own skin. Anyone with a shepherd like that knows he is safe. How badly we all need people like that, people who do not think only about themselves and their own comfort. How very much do children need such parents, workers such bosses, and believers such priests and bishops. How very much we need people who undertake their tasks, not merely as a job, but as pastoral care. The good shepherd does not abandon his flock when "things get hot", when the wolf becomes a threat to the flock. Part of a pastor's task is being prepared to stand up in person to evil, to what may hurt people--not to let things run their course so as to avoid taking unpleasant steps.

Parents are good shepherds whenever they do not simply let everything pass, when they protect their children from negative influences. And Christ, the "chief shepherd", expects the shepherds of the Church, the pastors, to have the courage not just to say "yes" and "Amen" to everything, merely to avoid rubbing people the wrong way. Jesus set an example of how the shepherd has to protect those who belong to him, even at the cost of being unpopular.

"I know my own and my own know me." The shepherd knows his flock, and his flock knows him. We usually know pretty quickly whether a "shepherd" is concerned for us or for himself. Children are hurt, not by their parents being strict, but by the feeling that they do not matter to their parents. We are deeply moved when we meet people who are good shepherds. And God be thanked, they are there: in the family, in professional life, in politics, and in the Church. They impart what we need so much, a feeling of care and security. We should be grateful to them. Yet no one is more of a shepherd, in that sense, than Jesus himself. No one loves us as he does. Only he is wholly and completely "the good shepherd".

Behold, God's Son! Encountering Christ in the Gospel of Mark

by Christoph Cardinal Schonborn

Who is Jesus Christ? How can we really know Him? People have been asking that major question for 2,000 years. The best answers are found in the four Gospels, but how are they to be understood, and applied to our modern lives and faith?

Cardinal Schonborn, former student of Pope Benedict XVI and well-known as a brilliant theologian, presents his second volume of reflections on the person of Christ, this time as found in the Gospel of Mark. Sunday after Sunday, Cardinal Schonborn uses the Gospel readings from Mark to explain the beauty of the Gospel in clear and understandable words.

The Cardinal emphasizes that each of the four Gospels is unique and has its own unmistakable shape and approach. He says that no other Gospel writer talks in such a human way about Jesus as Mark. Anger and sorrow, Jesus' passionate emotional responses, are more explicitly mentioned in Mark than in the other Gospels. But however human Jesus may appear here, it is also Mark in particular who also strongly emphasizes his divinity. Believing in Jesus, having faith in him, is what Mark is all about.

"A mix of deep, rewarding reflection on the Gospel of Mark, and an intimate manner of writing that opens the Word of God to even the most casual reader. For anyone serious about deepening his or her encounter with the Word of God, this little book is essential" -- Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Denver.

Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles and Excerpts:

Encountering Christ in the Gospel | Excerpt from My Jesus | Christoph Cardinal Schonborn
The Church Is the Goal of All Things | Excerpt from Loving The Church | Christoph Cardinal Schonborn
Reincarnation: The Answer of Faith | Excerpt from From Death to Life: The Christian Journey | Christoph Cardinal Schonborn
The Truth of the Resurrection | Excerpts from Introduction to Christianity | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Seeing Jesus in the Gospel of John | Excerpts from On The Way to Jesus Christ | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
A Jesus Worth Dying For | A Review of On The Way to Jesus Christ | Justin Nickelsen
The Divinity of Christ | Peter Kreeft
Jesus Is Catholic | Hans Urs von Balthasar
The Religion of Jesus | Blessed Columba Marmion | From Christ, The Ideal of the Priest

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn
is the Archbishop of Vienna, Austria. He was the general editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, co-author (with Cardinal Ratzinger) of Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the author of God's Human Face and Living the Catechism of the Catholic Church: The Creed (Vol. 1), The Sacraments (Vol. 2), Life in Christ (Vol. 3), and Paths of Prayer (Vol. 4).

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