4th Sunday of Easter Time
In reflecting on the Gospel I was wondering what Jesus meant when He said that He entered through the gate and that others, thieves and robbers tried the short cut of climbing over. I asked myself what is this gate? And my mind went to Psalm 23 which says – if I should walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil for you are by my side. Why do we have confidence in Jesus even in the valley of death? Because He has walked through the gates of suffering and death. He alone has the answer to suffering and death. Death and suffering have always been with us and have always cast a gloomy pall over any happiness we may have experienced.
There have been answers but those answers are like thieves and robbers – they do not deal with suffering and death. There are those who deny the reality of suffering. Suffering is an illusion they say. If you realize who you really are, pure spirit, suffering drops away. This is attractive in theory but a poor consolation if you are really suffering. Then suffering is real and pain, either psychological or physical cannot be argued away. Those who suffer know that it is not in the mind. It is very often in the body. There is another solution to suffering which is becoming more and more common in our world – the solution to the problem of life is death. Put an end to life and put an end to problems. Jesus says that those who lead others astray by the way of despair are thieves and robbers. Only Jesus has finally secured reality by providing the only answer to suffering and death. His solution to death is life and life in abundance. Only He can do this because He entered into death and death could not hold him. With the thieves and robbers of our humanity, the answer to life is death. With Jesus, the answer to death is life without end.
It is with this in mind that we can understand why Jesus says ‘I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.’ When a shepherd and his sheep were away from the Palestinian village of Jesus’ times, he would not go back to the common sheepfold at night. The shepherd would build a simple sheepfold with mud or stone or wood there. He would take all his sheep and put them into this fold. There was no door to this fold but the shepherd himself would lie across the opening. The shepherd was quite literally the gate. Jesus is the gate in this sense. There is no way we can enter into life without going through Him.
What a strange thing it is when Jesus says whoever enters through me will be save and will come in and go out and find pasture. Jesus is not showing us the place we should enter. He is telling us that He is the place. We enter into Him – another strange thing. But when we consider the shepherd lying across the opening we understand. We enter through the broken body of the Good Shepherd. We enter into His death and resurrection, we lose our lives and enter into His life. Without this relationship we do not live. In the Eucharist which makes present the sacrifice of Calvary, where we eat and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus – this entering into Jesus becomes real in a bodily way. We enter into His Life and He enters into ours. If we are enclosed in our small little lives, we do not find joy, we find ourselves contracting and unhappy, we find life goes nowhere. When we enter into Jesus, our hearts and lives expand, we become sacrificial like Him and in giving our lives away, in helping others, in thinking of others, we find ourselves in the infinite pasture of communion with the Blessed Trinity – where the joy of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit becomes ours.
Let us therefore always keep this in mind-Jesus is the gate there is no other. If we desire life we must enter into Him. If we desire life then we must follow not just the teachings but the example of the Good Shepherd – let us become sacrificial like Him. Let us, like Him, lay down our lives for others and let us also rise into His Life which is Life in abundance.