Monday of the Fourth week of Easter
The Good Shepherd
Saint John-Paul II, Pope from 1978 to 2005
Homily of 16/10/2003, for the 25th anniversary of his pontificate (trans. Libreria Editrice Vaticana)
The Good Shepherd
"The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep". While Jesus was saying these words, the Apostles did not realize that he was referring to himself. Not even his beloved Apostle John knew it. He understood on Calvary, at the foot of the Cross, when he saw Jesus silently giving up his life for "his sheep". When the time came for John and the other Apostles to assume this same mission they then remembered his words. They realized that they would be able to fulfil their mission only because he had assured them that he himself would be working among them. As Peter, a "witness of the sufferings of Christ" (I Pt 5,1), was particularly aware of this, he admonished the elders of the Church: "Tend the flock of God that is your charge" (I Pt 5, 2).
Down the centuries, the successors of the Apostles, guided by the Holy Spirit, have continued to gather Christ's flock and lead it toward the Kingdom of Heaven, knowing that only "for Christ, with Christ and in Christ" could they assume so great a responsibility.
I was conscious of the same thing when the Lord called me to carry out Peter's mission in this beloved city of Rome and at the serivce of the whole world. From the beginning of my Pontificate, my thoughts, prayers and actions were motivated by one desire: to witness that Christ, the Good Shepherd, is present and active in his Church. He is constantly searching for every stray sheep, to lead it back to the sheepfold, to bind up its wounds; he tends the sheep that are weak and sickly and protects those that are strong. This is why, from the very first day, I have never ceased to urge people: "Do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power!" Today I forcefully repeat: "Open, indeed, open wide the doors to Christ! Let him guide you! Trust in his love!”
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