John 10:11-18 Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away-- and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up 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 up again. I have received this command from my Father.”
Reflection “I am the good shepherd.” This is one of seven “I am” statements attributed to Jesus in John’s gospel. The other six are “I am the Bread of Life” (6:35), I am the Light of the world (8:12), I am the Gate (10:9), I am the Resurrection and Life (11:25), I am the Way, the Truth and the Life (14:6), and I am the True Vine (15:1).
Each one of Jesus’ ‘I am” statements affirms that the Spirit of Jesus, the Christ, is not only with us in our need but also provides for our need. Jesus, being “the bread of life,” feeds our deepest , spiritual hunger. Jesus, being “the light of the world,” penetrates and transfigures the darkest moments of our lives. Being a “gate,” Jesus is an opening, a portal or a means of access to freedom from whatever restrains or weighs us down. Jesus “the resurrection and the life” replaces our discouragement, despair and doubt with hope in the promise that life does not end with death but is changed. Jesus, “the way, the truth and the life,” exemplifies the way of being in intimate, loving, dependent relationship with God. Jesus, “the true vine,” reminds us that all of our productivity or fruitfulness arises from our relationship with God so there is no need for anxiety and striving for success. Jesus, the “good shepherd” acknowledges our vulnerability and stops at nothing to care for us.
This begs the question, how are we to respond to such magnanimity? I believe one way is to live in imitation of Christ, to claim the “I am” statements for ourselves. What would it be like if each of us declared, “I am the bread of life” and then lived our lives making sure no one around us was lacking? How might the world be different if each of us proclaimed, “I am the light of the world,” then used our lives to shine hope and spiritual wisdom into the darkest corners of our world? Can you imagine a world in which every one of us asserted, “I am the gate,” and then did everything we could to assure all people had access to food, shelter, education and healthcare? What if we announced, “I am the resurrection and the life,” and revealed the many deaths and humiliations we’ve endured that led to new and transformed life for us? Might the world be different if we dared to say, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” then live our lives refusing gossip and destructive behavior in favor of loving and dignifying all people? What if we laid claim to being “the true vine,” intended to pass on all our God given gifts for the greater good? Would the world be different if we found our essence with Jesus, “the good shepherd” and assumed responsibility for the care and protection of widows and orphans, the disabled and disaffected, the hungry, the prisoner, the illegals, even at our own expense?
Do we dare to declare, I am?
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