Fourth Sunday of Easter
4th Sunday of Easter
30th April 2023
The Good Shepherd
Sieger Köder – (1925 – 2015)
Sieger Köder was a German Catholic Priest/Artist.
Köder’s work shows the artistic influence of Chagall and is distinctive for its strong colours and robust, chunky figures. There is challenge, anger, humour, and deep tenderness in his depictions of biblical scenes, and always an eye for the human response to God’s communication.
He said in an interview: ‘I hope I can preach with each painting, not just make pictures. I want people to look at the pictures, of course, but if the message of my deepest motivation for painting comes across, then I hope that the message of the Gospel comes with it as well’.
Köder captures the loving and compassionate nature of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, a strong and caring figure, carrying the lamb on his shoulders with both hands, with face touching face, an expression of love and protection.
The background of the painting is filled with an array of colours, from warm oranges and yellows to cool blues and greens, creating a sense of peace and tranquillity, also joy. The way in which Köder uses light and shadow adds depth and dimension to the scene, drawing the viewer in and immersing them in the moment, celebrating the lost sheep that was found.
John 10: 1-10
I Am the Gate of the Sheepfold
Jesus said: “I tell you most solemnly, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate but gets in some other way is a thief and a brigand. The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice. They never follow a stranger but run away from him: they do not recognise the voice of strangers.” Jesus told them this parable, but they failed to understand what he meant by telling it to them. So, Jesus spoke to them again: “I tell you most solemnly, I am the gate of the sheepfold. All others who have come are thieves and brigands; but the sheep took no notice of them. I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe: he will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.
Jesus is contrasting two very different persons: the shepherd and the thief. it is how the enter the sheep fold that distinguishes them. The thief and robber climb in over the fence, the shepherd enters by the gate. At the outset we are far from the idyllic/poetic image of the sheepfold. It is a place that must be defended from bandits. The image of the Christian life is above all, a place of battle. We should remember that this discourse of Jesus is very polemic. This discourse comes right after the healing of the man born blind. This man was treated badly by the Pharisees, like a poor, defenceless sheep and he was expelled from the synagogue (Jn 9/1.41).
Jesus is against the false shepherds, the thieves and robbers who pretend to guide the flock without a true commission or authority. The true pastor is he who enters, in all clarity, by the gate, and whom the gatekeeper introduces (v.3). Let's not pass too quickly on this gatekeeper; the whole gospel points him out to us: he is the Father, who sent Jesus (Jn 8:16.42) who put everything into his hands (Jn 3:5; 5:22.26) who gave him his sheep (Jn 17:6.9). They are grouped for the night in one enclosure, to be defended against bandits, in the morning they are called out by name and the sheep clearly know the shepherd’s voice, there is an instinctive friendship and trust. They follow him, they listen to him.
The true believer is the one who listens to the voice of Jesus and follows him. The verb “listen” is repeated 58 times in John’s gospel. Jesus is the Word, the Verb, the Revelation, who entrusts to the attentive ear of his friends what he heard from the Father. The pharisees did not understand (v.6), they pretended to guide the others but were false shepherds. All those who make beautiful promises are thieves and bandits.
Jesus loves to present his ideas with images. He is the only Shepherd, and another image, more subtle; I am the gate. The only gate, the passage with access to a new place where you’ll find green pasture, a place of freshness, of freedom… It depends on each of us, that this gate which opens to the infinite isn’t left to be opened until the last day, the day of our death. This door that opens to God, why don’t we pass through now? Jesus reminds us that the only radical freedom is the one God proposes. All the other promises of freedom, a good life, happiness… are deceptions, a type of theft.
Jesus came that we may have life, and life in abundance. This is a favourite theme for John; the wine at the wedding in Cana, given in abundance (Jn 2:6). The water given to the Samaritan woman, a spring gushing that would end all thirst definitively (Jn 4:14). The multiplication of bread with 12 baskets left over (Jn 6:10). The miraculous catch of fish nearly sinking the boat (Jn 21:6). But these are just images, the reality is much more beautiful: it is life in abundance! This gate opens to the infinite, to the eternal.
You are the true Shepherd who leads us, and we are Your beloved sheep who listen to Your voice. Grant us the grace to follow You with trust and obedience, knowing that Your ways are always good and perfect. Keep us safe within the fold of Your loving care and protect us from the dangers of false voices. Forgive us, Lord, for the times we have strayed, and pursued empty pleasures that cannot satisfy. Help us to recognize the emptiness of worldly desires, And to turn our hearts towards You, our true source of fulfilment.
Teach us to be good stewards of the abundant life You offer, To cherish and nurture the blessings You bestow upon us. Give us the grace to be generous and selfless, As we share Your love and mercy with others. We also pray for those who are lost and searching, That they may hear Your voice and be drawn to You. Guide them back to the fold of Your love, And help them experience the richness of life in You.
"Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.
O Lord, how long will you be patient with me? How long will you keep calling to me, saying, ‘I am the Good Shepherd; I know my own and my own know me’ (John 10:14)? Why do I delay? Why do I tarry? Let there be an end to my excuses. May your voice become clearer every day, until I have followed it to the green pastures where I can feed on your Word, and rest by the still waters where my soul can be refreshed."
Book X of Augustine's Confessions, Chapter 27
Augustine realizes that the human heart is restless, always longing for something more, and that earthly pleasures are incapable of providing lasting fulfilment.
He then turns his gaze towards God, the source of all true satisfaction. He acknowledges that his heart was created by God, and that only in God can it find rest. He beautifully expresses his recognition of God's abiding presence in his life, even when he was ignorant of it. He marvels at God's unwavering love and mercy, which pursued him even in his waywardness.
This reflection serves as a powerful reminder to us all that our human desires, while natural, are ultimately transient and can never fully satisfy us. It highlights the importance of seeking our ultimate fulfilment in God, who alone can provide lasting contentment. It reflects the universal human search for meaning and purpose.
It reminds us to turn our hearts towards God with humility, to acknowledge our dependence on Him, and to find our ultimate rest in His eternal and abiding love.
There once was a sheep all alone
Lost in the hills on her own
The Shepherd searched wide
With love as his guide
Found the sheep and his joy fully shown
 Before that he made another statement about the thief in John 8:44; he was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies