On this “Good Shepherd Sunday,” we reflect not only on how Jesus reveals himself as a shepherd but also on how his followers continue his mission of shepherding his flock. We are all sheep because we belong to the Shepherd; we are all shepherds because he shares with us his love and care for all his sheep. We are all brothers and sisters, children of our heavenly Father.

The Apostles served as shepherds at the expense of their own comfort and security, and later even of their lives. Peter and John in the first reading find themselves challenged by the Sanhedrin, a group of powerful religious figures in Jewish society – the very ones who had Jesus put to death. The Apostles, arrested and called to account “for a good deed done to a cripple,” show that they are not hirelings who run off at the threat of danger. They serve as genuine shepherds, following in the footsteps of their Master. They do not cower in the presence of the authorities. Neither do they claim any healing power of their own. Instead they boldly proclaim the truth: “all of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the Name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his Name this man stands before you healed.”

The crippled man, now healed, is not the only sheep under the care of Peter and John. The Apostles want the members of the Sanhedrin to know that the way of salvation stands open to them too. They are the Lord’s “other sheep.” So the Apostles boldly continue their testimony, pointing out that Jesus is the fulfillment of a prophetic verse from Psalm 118 – a passage the leaders all know very well: “He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone” (cf. Ps 118:22). The “builders” are the religious authorities who failed to recognize that Jesus is the cornerstone of our salvation. What an indictment, especially coming from two men whom the learned authorities consider ignorant! But the Apostles are not condemning the guilty; they are calling them to salvation in Jesus, for “there is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”

We learn from the courageous witness of Peter and John that if we are under the care of the Good Shepherd, we have nothing to fear. As we fulfill our mission each day, living by and proclaiming the truth, wherever we are, whoever we are with, whatever conditions confront us, our security is in the Name of Jesus. Indeed, as the Psalm affirms, “it is better to take refuge in the LORD, / than to trust in man,” or “to trust in princes.”

St. John, many years after he stood with St. Peter before the Sanhedrin, wrote the Letter from which we have today’s marvelous second reading. John opens our eyes to look beyond the image of the sheep under the care of the Good Shepherd, to see our real identity as children of God, beloved of the Father. The world does not know who we are (which explains in part why we find ourselves rejected and persecuted), but we should know who we are! We do not need to seek recognition by the world, for we have already been recognized by our Father. We might assume that there is nothing greater than being children of God, yet John hints at something even greater: being like God, seeing him face to face. Exactly what this means “has not yet been revealed,” but we can be sure that “when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

This is why the Good Shepherd laid down his life for us his sheep and took it up again, so that we may be like him and see him as he is. The good pasture to which he is leading us is his own divine life, an eternal share in the Communion of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In what ways can I imitate the courage of Peter and John in proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ in my daily life? How does the concept of being both sheep and shepherd in the service of the Good Shepherd challenge me to live a life of selfless service for others? How can I better embrace and live out my identity as a child of God in a world that may not always recognize or understand it?

Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 20, no. 4. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.