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One of the lasting memorials to Scots generosity that was left in the Ecuador shanty town where I worked is the Parish Church in Nueva Prosperina called “Preciocisima Sangre de Cristo/Precious Blood of Christ.”  In fact this year is the tenth anniversary of the Parish opening.  For me the building of the Church was a novelty – I’d never been involved in such a project before – and there were many interesting days as I had to climb up bell towers with no health and safety ropes, no hard hats and just my simple shoes, or had to go to various warehouse stores to choose paints, tiles etc.  On one day, the architect who was running the project came and said I needed to decide on the design for the stained glass windows.  There were sixteen of windows on either side of the Church.  I had decided that on one side we would have the images of the various saints of the eight chapels that made up the Parish: Saint Ignatius, Child of Prague etc.  On the other side, since the Parish was dedicated to a title of Christ, then I would have the various titles given to Christ: the Good Shepherd, Bread of Life etc.  I had seen the work of the glass designer before and was confident in his work but when he came back with the image of today’s Gospel – I am the gate of the sheepfold – I burst out laughing.  You see, the Spanish for that phrase is “Yo soy la puerta del redil” could also translate as “I am the Door”.  So we had the beautiful images of Christ lined up: of Christ as Shepherd, of Christ with the Eucharist, of Christ in the Resurrection and then we had this one ….. no image of Christ, just a simple door.  Back to the drawing board, literally.

 

 

 

It is a curious phrase, even in English: I am the Gate of the Sheepfold.  Yet when you think of it, the message is clear: if you go through the gate of the sheepfold, if you go through Christ, you will find pasture and you will be safe.  It is an image that inspires confidence and trust: the gatekeeper trusts the shepherd, the sheep trust the shepherd, they are called individually by name and they find the right spot for pasture. 

 

 

 

Once again I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that it comes from John’s Gospel.  This is the Gospel – more than the other Gospels – that tells us what God’s purpose was.  The Word was made flesh, John tells us, and lived among us.  This was God wanting, desiring to be one of us.  We already know that it was God’s purpose to sit at our table and share our lives.  Here, in this image of the shepherd, we see that God did not come for himself or just to be the shepherd.  God came for the sheep, for the women and men of the world, for you and for me.

 

 

 

Of course, another side of this parable is the contrast that is made between the Good Shepherd (Christ) and the bad shepherds.  The bad shepherd is the one of stirs up, causes confusion and panic and who doesn’t call the sheep personally.  This parable follows on in John’s Gospel from a criticism of the Pharisees so the message is clear – at least for first century Palestine: do not follow the Pharisees who will lead you astray and will cause confusion and panic; follow Christ, who calls you by name and who leads you to calm, rest and a sense of purpose for life.

 

 

 

You and I know what it’s like in life to hear false voices, to hear the call that causes confusion and distress.  How many times have you followed that voice and been led down a dark path?  Follow the voice of the Good Shepherd.  Follow Christ.  Follow his values.  Let those values inspire you, rather than your own self interest.  This is true for the big decisions in life, the key moments but it’s also for the wee decisions also: do I lose the plot with a work colleague this week or do I seek a path of common rest and peace?; Do I harbour this resentment or do I let it go?; Can I decide for love this week?

 

 

 

Remember Christ did not come on earth for himself, he came for you, that you might have life and life in abundance!

 

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