FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR A – 29th / 30th April, 2023

The central idea and series of images used by Jesus in the Gospel is that of the intimate knowledge that should exist between a shepherd and sheep: he knows his sheep, they recognise his voice and willingly follow his call. Jesus contrasts a ‘good shepherd’ like this with others who come only to steal, harass, and ultimately destroy sheep that do not belong to them. Jesus identifies himself not only with the shepherd but also with the Gate of the sheepfold: ‘I am the Gate of the sheepfold.’ This adds a fresh dimension. If the sheep are to flourish, they have to come and go through the gate of the fold; if they stay within the fold, they will decline for lack of pasture. If they do not return to the fold but stay out in the hillsides all night, they will be at risk. So daily they have to come and go through the gate, which then becomes their means of access to both protection and growth. By describing himself as ‘the Gate of the sheepfold’ Jesus is indicating that only through vital and continual interaction with himself will members of the community find life and growth. In this sense he ‘has come that they may have life and have it to the full’, that is, beyond life as mere existence, to have the ‘eternal life’ that is a share in the undying life of God.