Meditation of the week

The intimacy of knowledge

John 10,27-30.

Continuing the shepherd theme from last Sunday, today’s gospel speaks of the relationship the shepherd has with his sheep. Earlier in Ch. 10 attention is focused on Jesus as the gate of the sheepfold (10,7-10) and as the good shepherd (10,11-16). Here the focus is on the sheep. They listen to the shepherd’s voice and know who he is, i.e. the Messiah (10,25), and Son of God (10,27), because they are on God’s side (8.47). The sheep here refer to Peter and the apostles. They contrast with the Jews, those who won’t listen to Jesus, and who immediately after this discourse want to stone him for claiming to be God (10,31).

The sheep that belong to the shepherd know his voice, believe what he says, follow him and are given eternal life by him.  Those sheep can never be lost or stolen because they are given to Jesus by the Father and no one can steal from the Father because HE is stronger than anyone else – reminiscent of Isaiah 43,13. The claim that he and the Father are one is taken by his disciples and the Jews in totally opposite ways. The disciples are overjoyed and reassured by the words spoken to them by the Son of God in human form, whereas the Jews are scandalized  and angered by words spoken by a human being claiming that God is his Father. For them Jesus’ claim is blasphemy, for the disciples it is wonder and mystery and “love beyond all telling.”

Today’s gospel reading describes the most intimate relationship of communication and communion between Jesus and his disciples. The disciples belong to Jesus. He owns them, treasures them, and they love him and listen to him. He knows them and they know and follow him. In the Hebrew culture knowing somebody was much more than an intellectual perception of a person, or an acquaintance with them. It meant knowing them with the heart, experiencing and accepting the person with one’s feelings. Knowing a person was a dynamic thing and often resulted in some form of action in their favour. In Hebrew the verb “to know” was a synonym for the closest, loving, marital intimacy. The disciples follow Jesus because he knows them and they belong to him.  He gives them life, security and safety that can never be lost.

The Father whose gift they are to Jesus, and with Whom he is one, will guard them always. The Father who is greater than anyone is the source of Jesus’ confidence and promises. He is one with the Father, in nature and in love, and of the same mind, shown by his obedience to the Father’s will.  He came to do his Father’s will.

The same relationship obtains between Jesus and each of us. He knows us intimately, loves us tenderly, cares for and about us unceasingly, wants us to be full of the life which he came to give us. (10,10). Our response is shown in our listening to his voice, his word, and in following his example of love and service of God and others.

Today is world day of prayer for vocations for the priesthood, religious life and dedicated life. Please pray for this intention.

“The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice. I Know them and they follow me.” (Today’s psalm).

Fr Geoff O’Grady