It was June of 1990 when I was hired to be a shepherd of sorts. I was to be the new principal of Archbishop Romero Catholic School on the near east side of Aurora. Anyone who knows Aurora is aware that this area can be quite dangerous. The Latin Kings and the Ambrose gangs divide turf with other gang members. They entice jr. high boys into being runners for drug sales and a host of other dangerous activities. My sheep gate was the block on which the school and playground were situated. Day after day I would guard my sheep on the playground. With my cell phone in hand I watched this way and that lest gang bangers, thieves or marauders encroached on my sheepfold. I knew my sheep by name: Julio, Ricardo, Jaime, Lorena, Enrique, Rosalinda.... The sheep are not just a collection, a group : there is an intimate relationship of the heart between shepherd and sheep. Like Jesus when the sheep are lost you go out to find them. I, too, would get in my car and go out searching for my sheep. Danny couldn't get to school today : OK Danny, I'm on my way." Lorena is absent. It's a gym day and she doesn't like gym class. I go to her house and feel her forehead. The diagnosis is that she is not sick. I'll wait in the car while you get dressed. I care about my sheep. Jesus goes out gathering his sheep, he leads the way for them to follow safely. Mothers and fathers are shepherds of their sheep as are teachers and caretakers of all kind.
In the Gospel reading today Jesus speaks solemnly : when He says "Amen, amen I say unto you" we need to "listen up". He proclaims "I am the gate for the sheep", the others (Pharisees who have just denied Him for healing the blind man on the Sabbath) are thieves and robbers : they don't care about the sheep but only about their own power and glory. In contrast Jesus loves each individual sheep. He knows their name and they know and trust his voice. When they are in trouble he seeks them out and puts them on his shoulders : as portrayed in our statue : depicting tender love. Whoever enters through me will be saved : will find true life abundantly. When we live our lives as good shepherds : like Jesus : pouring our life out in love : we will find abundant life within. The mother who nurses a colicky baby throughout the night, the parent who works long hours to provide the necessities for their family, the one who speaks truth to a boss who asks them to act in a dishonest way = all are shepherds of truth and love and peace. You will have life in abundance modeling your life in the pattern of Jesus : the Good Shepherd : The Gate of Life.