John 10:1-10 Jesus said, "Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers." Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So again Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
Reflection What is life? That was the first question that came to mind when I read Jesus’ words to the disciples and us, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” I typed my question, “What is life” into google search and guess what popped up? You are not connected! Oops? So I waited twenty-seven seconds and then received 9 billion, 600 million hits. Now that’s connection!
In the 1960s Lynn Margulis, the biologist who is credited with one of the great achievements of twentieth-century evolutionary biology, explained how eukaryotic cells - cells that have a nucleus and a cellular membrane and are the basis of all life - Margulis explained how these cells evolved over millions of years as a result of interdependent and cooperative relationships between once-distinct bacteria. (Which of course means our true ancestors are bacterium.) Margulis also suggested that rather than evolution being driven by competition it is determined by symbiotic or cooperative relationships between organisms of different phyla and kingdoms. In other words, at the cellular level, life is relationships between things that are not the same and that change over time.
What does that have to do with our gospel text? Well, sheep and shepherds are of different orders. Much as Margulis’ distinctively different bacterium interact and cooperate to impel evolution, so too do the shepherd and the sheep collaborate for the common good. I believe that is Jesus’ point when he says, “I came that they may have life and have it in abundance.” I believe Jesus is saying, "I came to be in relationship with them. I came to be in interdependent and cooperative relationship with each and every one of them, like a shepherd with his sheep. See, I even know them by name and they recognize my voice. I came to pour myself out to them (and to us) so that they could pour themselves out to me. Like the ancient bacterium that engulfed one another such that both survived and evolved over millions of years and became the basic cells of life, I, Jesus came to be in intimate, deeply personal relationship with you; loving, leading and caring for you. I came like a shepherd to the sheep; reaching across the chasm of order, genus, family and species. " Jesus came to show us the way of reaching across whatever divides us, the way of bridging our differences and cooperating for the common good.
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