What a dreadful way it is to live in a way that leads to death. But there’s another way to live, a beautiful way to live, a way that leads to life, peace and true happiness. Jesus, in the Gospel today, tells us that he came precisely so that may live with that life, peace and happiness, as described in the most famous of the Psalms, Psalm 23 – “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want….”

As we listen to the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel, they take on added meaning because we are in vacation mode. Many have plans to go away for a while, and that becomes evident by the diminishing crowds at Masses on the weekend. They want to get away from their routine and plan some unusual events, which sometimes means omitting obligatory Sunday Mass. Our secularized world thinks it has the answer to our needs, but what it offers only tricks us into a false sense of happiness that actually can lead us into a dead end, figuratively and literally. We can compare the words of Jesus today to the deceivingly false notions of happiness: “His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.”

 

Here’s a contemporary parody on Psalm 23:

The computer is my mainstay I shall not want,          (The Lord is my shepherd, there’s nothing I shall want)
It gives me pleasure in secret.                                         (In verdant pastures He gives me repose)
It leads me away from the faith,                                     (Besides restful waters He leads me)
It destroys my soul.                                                           (He refreshes my soul)
It guides me to sin for amusement’s sake.                   (He guides me along right paths for His name’s sake)
Though I walk in the shadow of Christian teaching,  (Even though I walk in the valley of darkness)
There’ll be no distraction, for the screen is near me. (I fear no evil for You are at my side)
Its content and style, they comfort me.                         (With your rod and staff that give me courage)
It prepares a temptation for me                                      (You spread the table before me)
in the thoughts of my worldliness;                                 (In the sight of my foes)
And fills my head with trash and nonsense.                 (You anoint my head with oil)
My lust is running over;                                                    (My cup is overflowing)
Surely ignorance and indifference shall follow me     (Surely goodness and kindness follow me)
For the rest of my life,                                                       (all the days of my life)
And I shall dwell in the web of Evil One,                      (And I shall dwell in house of the Lord)
seeking websites forever.                                                  (forever and ever)

 

Only by dying to ourselves as we follow Jesus will we come to the happiness we seek. Jesus teaches us that the way to happiness lies not in filling up each of our wants and needs and desires. The way to happiness lies in a very different choice of life; the way to happiness may be found in sacrificing and taking up our cross with Jesus, reproducing the life of Jesus in our own lives. And so, Jesus tells us that He is the “gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe: he will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture…” (John 10:9). Again, He states. “I have come so that they may have life and have it to the fullness.” (John 10:10)

In Palestine the shepherd brought the sheep into the sheepfold every night. It was a circular stone wall with an opening or door where the sheep entered. Once the sheep were inside for the night the shepherd slept in that opening or door all night. The sheep could not get out without stepping over the shepherd’s body which meant they would not get out at all during the night. Jesus is the gate, anyone who enters through him will be safe, and will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture. Others steal and kill and destroy, but Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

As we contemplate Jesus as the Good Shepherd, Pope St. John Paul encouraged people many times to find life to the full by following Jesus, as he said words like this, “Do not be afraid to open the doors to Christ…” I pray that many may listen to the voice of Jesus as he calls, that they may enter the sheepfold through him and be safe and have life and live it to the fullest.