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Shepherds, Warriors and Thieves | Gospel of April 21

By 17 April, 2024No Comments
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Gospel according to Saint John 10,11-18:

Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why 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 on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”

Shepherds, Warriors and Thieves

Luis CASASUS President of the Idente Missionaries

Rome, April 21, 2024 | IV Sunday of Easter

Acts 4: 8-12; 1Jn 3: 1-2; Jn 10: 11-18

Competencies of a pastor. I confess that my idea of what a pastor does is rather limited. And even more so of what a shepherd was like as Christ describes today to introduce himself: I am the Good Shepherd.

Some of us have an artificial and sugar-coated picture of the life of what a shepherd does in any area of the world. But the Book of Samuel tells how the prophet chooses David as a future king, even though he continued to work as a shepherd. On one of young David’s visits to his three brothers who were on the battlefield, the giant Goliath appeared and the young shepherd volunteered to fight the Philistine giant, knocking him down, against all odds, with a sure hit from a stone thrown with his sling.

A shepherd not only gently takes the wounded sheep in his arms, but is also ready to fight; he is a warrior, as the Old Testament teaches, and that means resolutely defending his sheep. The figure of David is emblematic in this defensive mission of the shepherd, for he was not a professional soldier and neither did he possess an impressive physical appearance.

For us, this can be a first practical lesson, because many times we spend our time measuring our strength, lamenting our weakness and, in the end… looking at ourselves. But, it is worth remembering that the Church in this world is called Militant because she is in continuous war with the cruelest enemies, the world, the flesh and Satan, as the Catechism of the Council of Trent said. It does not mean that we are called to sow discord and violence, but that we must be aware that contrariety will always accompany us, even in the happiest moments, and will demand from us a permanent combat, a state of vigilance to protect – more than our own spiritual life – that of those whom Providence places at our side: Feed my sheep (Jn 21: 15-17).

The world is not only vanities and worries, but also conflicts with those we love and with whom we never manage to have a harmonious relationship.

The flesh is not only temptations and my sins, but also the pain and limitations of my body and soul.

The devil is the silent enemy, more active than we can imagine, who tries to use even the gifts we receive and the grace of purification for his own ends.

In practice, as we mentioned before, I am so worried about my spiritual and spiritual weakness that when Jesus says “the harvest is plentiful“, what I feel is a certain discouragement, pessimism and resignation.

This was not the case with Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuân. Shortly after being appointed coadjutor archbishop of Saigon in 1975, he was arrested and imprisoned by the government because of his Catholic faith. He never got to exercise his ministry as archbishop. After thirteen years in prison, nine of which he spent in solitary confinement, he was finally released in 1988 and sent into exile.

While in prison, he used his limited resources creatively to fulfill his duties as pastor of the faithful. Since he could not be physically present among his own, he had to find a way to reach out to them, so he enlisted the help of a young boy to bring him old calendars and wrote on the back messages that the young man copied and distributed among the faithful. He was virtually a human photocopying machine. Van Thuân’s profound letters to the Catholic community strengthened her faith and helped her persevere. These short written messages reminded the people that their beloved archbishop, although not physically present, was with them through prayer and in spirit.

In an innovative fidelity, he also used his meager means to celebrate Mass in prison. He knew that celebrating Mass was his most important duty, but he had no church, no altar, no tabernacle, so how could he fulfill his duty as a bishop? He turned the concentration camp into a cathedral and the palm of his hand into an altar. He turned his shirt pocket into a tabernacle and the darkness of the dormitories into a dwelling place for the Light itself.

Thanks to his ingenuity, many prisoners regained the fervor of their faith. Prisoners were reminded to embrace suffering and use their current circumstances to grow in faith. Their example and teachings remind us that Christian faith involves an active surrender to the Lord. It means seeking the best way to proclaim the love of Christ in every moment, in every circumstance and in every action, even when all the odds seem stacked against us.

What was the secret of his perseverance? He told it in his memoirs:

Alone in my cell, I was still tormented by the fact that I was forty-eight years old, in the prime of my life, I had worked for eight years as a bishop and had acquired so much pastoral experience, and there I was, isolated, inactive and far from my people.

One night, from the depths of my heart, I could hear a voice advising me: Why do you torment yourself? You must discern between God and the works of God: all that you have done and wish to continue doing, the pastoral visits, the formation of seminarians, sisters and members of religious orders, the building of schools, the evangelization of non-Christians.

All this is excellent work, the work of God, but it is not God! If God wants you to give it all up and put the work in His hands, do it and trust Him. God will do the job infinitely better than you; He will entrust the job to others more capable than you. You only have to choose God and not God’s works.

Reading the story of this holy bishop, proclaimed Venerable by the Church, and remembering that for a few minutes I was able to greet him in Rome, I see more clearly that I must stop complaining and feeling sorry for myself. Nor should I be anxious, because no one is my property. I am in any case, as our Father and Founder used to say, a “swain” (young assistant to the shepherd) of the Good Shepherd, who will never abandon his flock and will always protect it against thieves and bandits. He is the one who gave His life for me and for you so that we may have life and have it in abundance.


We may think that only the bishops and other authorities of the Church are the recipients of Jesus’ message today, of his call to be shepherds, even because in the Church the term “Pastor” is used to denote a spiritual guide or one who has a hierarchical position. But if we remember examples such as the Samaritan woman, Zacchaeus or the unfortunate blind and lepers who were cured by Christ as soon as they began to transmit the message and the good received, it becomes evident that each one of us has to be concerned with discovering how to be a pastor, which is not equivalent to the modern and interesting notion of “leader”. This explains the Master’s interest in having the disciples participate in the task of distributing the loaves and fishes that He multiplied.

On the other hand, in situations of war and in the heat of battle, obedience is paramount. That is why Christ says: The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice. This is what ultimately defines us: our obedience. He makes the judgment call; we simply carry it out. In the midst of a culture of mass information, relativism and individualism, where there are so many competing voices, we must learn to listen to the only voice that matters, the voice of Christ, of the Good Shepherd.

Not listening to his voice only ends in chaos and conflict in the ranks of the flock. The Spirit of the Gospel, which our Father and Founder places at the center of the unitive effort with Christ, has as one of its components the acceptance of the Gospel, embracing it with our mind so that it reaches the heart, after meditation, continually using its light, its criterion, in all thoughts and actions.

A final observation, which refers to a comfortable and superficial interpretation of the words of Christ when he affirms today: The salaried person, who is not a shepherd, to whom the sheep do not belong, sees the wolf coming, abandons the sheep and flees.

Of course, he who has the mission to feed the sheep of Christ (whether he is an “authority” or not) and takes advantage of his condition to abuse others and take advantage of them for his own benefit, commits faults, some of them abominable, and can be called a thief.

We all know about sexual harassment, mistreatment of superiors and illicit use of the Church’s money, always with justifications for self-soothing, but if you or I do not give to people what they REALLY need, the green pastures and meadows mentioned in Psalm 23, we are real thieves, hired hands who take advantage of their position.

Sometimes, the wolf that makes us flee is the fear of difficulty, the desire not to break our comfortable and superficial relationship with people.

Other times, the difficulty lies in indifference, in not having formed and strengthened our sensitivity. Psychologists say that our sensitivity and empathy are normally greater for people we consider similar to us, for example, of the same culture, age, opinions, etc. This observation is in accordance with Christ’s insistence that we look at every human being as a brother or sister, which is truer than any other form of relationship that might bind us together: boss-employee, co-workers, living under the same roof or having the same difficulties, all of which are undoubtedly significant.

Lack of sensitivity to the pain and dreams of others alienates us from our neighbor, makes us flee from him because that is what instincts dictate: seeking balance, avoiding problems, simplifying one’s own life… that is, the opposite of the Beatitude that promises complete joy to the one who tries to quench the thirst and hunger of all, to bring others closer to Christ (not “to religion” or pious practices).

I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger; he who believes in me shall never thirst (Jn 6: 35).


In the Sacred Hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph,