Page 4, 21st April 1944

21st April 1944
Page 4
Page 4, 21st April 1944 — SUNDAY READINGS

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Organisations: Early Church


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!Epistle: I Peter 2,.21-25 Gospel: John 10, 11-16 THE PASTORAL IDEAL

OUR Lord's description of Himself in the Gospel for this, the second Sunday after Easter,

which gives to the day the title of Good Shepherd Sunday, may seem to us, if we think about it, more fanciful than realistic. For His hearers, however, it suggested a familiar figure such as any traveller might come .upon—gaunt, lonely and sounding strange cries— leading the flock. Nor were the religious associations of the shepherd strange to them. " The sweet singer of Israel " had sung of Jahweh as the Shepherd Who led him to green pastures. Isaias had declared that the Lord God would come as a shepherd, guiding His flock, carrying weak lambs in His arms and taking special care of ewes giving suck. Ezechiel had denounced the false shepherds of Israel who ruled with force and cruelty, leaving those who strayed to become the prey of wild beasts. These pastoral references had a familiar sound and a messianic significance.

The picture of Christ as the Good Shepherd made a deep impression on the Early Church, which is reflected on the walls of the catacombs. It survives

in the choice of the crozier as the symbol of episcopal authority.

It is not so much the authority of the Supreme Pastor that is emphasised in the Gospel as the intimate and sacrificial aspects of His office. He knows those that are His, and they know Him. lie protects them from danger even at the risk of His life. It is no mere official relationship which exists between them, but a profoundly personal tic. In a time of persecution, when it was the Pastor who stood between the secular authorities and the flock and drew upon himself the main attack, this would be appreciated as it cannot be in more tolerant ages. It is the truly paternal and heroic quality of the Good Shepherd which has given the parable its popularity. The situation to-day in occupied countries has afforded an opportunity for the revival of this ideal.

LIGHT is thrown on that conception of the office by the interpretation given it in the apostolic Epistles of the New Testament. The picture which these letters present of affectionate care, wise diplomacy and heroic fortitude in the presence of danger on the part of those responsible for the infant societies is as beautiful a one as will be found in the whole history of the Church. And these characteristics were drawn from Him Whom St. Peter, the chief among them, calls " the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls."


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