In today’s Gospel we find more shepherd imagery: Christ identifies Himself as the gate through which all the sheep can enter and find pasture.
As human beings, we need guidance and support, and we all place our trust in someone or something in order to survive. Maybe we put our trust entirely in the hands of another flawed individual, in our defective government, in our rose-colored dreams of the future, or even in our own imperfect abilities. But if we put our trust in the things of this world instead of in God, we will ultimately be disappointed and betrayed, for none of these things can truly fulfill us. They are the thieves that come only to slaughter and destroy; Jesus is the gate through which we will find truth, goodness, and beauty. He “came so that we might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
The Good Shepherd knows and understands our experience: He Himself is the Lamb of God. He made Himself vulnerable for our sake and handed Himself over to be slaughtered, and now he wants to guide us as a gentle, loving protector. From the time the angels heralded His birth by appearing to a group of poor shepherds until this very moment, He makes Himself known as the Shepherd of our souls. By acting as our guide and protector, He allows us to be innocent and pure-hearted in facing the evils of this world, the wolves that seek to devour us. This requires us to give up control and throw ourselves upon His mercy, but in doing so, we will gain much more than if we tried to navigate toward the pasture on our own. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He will lead us on right paths.
Pier Giorgio Frassati could easily have been tempted to trust in the things of this world and the ideas of men—surely it was the message that permeated the culture of the rich elite that surrounded him, as well as the university environment during the rise of Italian fascism. As a young, wealthy man with infinite possibilities before him, he could have trusted in his own status and charm, coasting through young adulthood instead of taking God seriously. But he put God’s commandments before all else; he took the command to love his neighbor as himself very seriously, indeed. He saw Christ in the poor and suffering, and he served them tirelessly. He was committed to campaigning for Catholic ideals in the political sphere, despite the ridicule it brought. He never wavered in his support for Catholic Action, even when it meant facing physical threats from fascists and communists. Through all the noise of the world, he was able to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd leading him on, and the joy that flowed forth from Pier Giorgio is living proof of the abundant life to which all of us are called.
1. Aelbert Cuyp, Herd of Sheep at Pasture / PD-US
2. StefyMante, Pyrography on Poplar Wood, / CC BY-SA 3.0
3. Charles-Émile Jacque, Evaning / PD-US