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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[John 10:11–16. Luke 15:1–10]

JESUS having come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, went to the Temple and taught there, saying: “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd giveth his life for his sheep. But the hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, seeth the wolf coming, and fleeth. I am the Good Shepherd, and I know mine, and mine know Me, and I lay down My life for My sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.”

On another occasion when the proud and conceited Pharisees complained because Jesus dealt kindly with publicans and sinners, He spoke to them this parable: “What man among you that hath a hundred sheep, and if he shall lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety-nine in the desert, and go after that which was lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, doth he not lay it on his shoulders, rejoicing? Then, coming home, doth he not call together his friends and neighbours, saying to them: ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost.’ I say to you that even so there shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doeth penance, more than upon ninety-nine just that need not penance.”

The Love of Jesus for us. By the simile of the Good Shepherd our Lord teaches us how great is His compassionate love for all mankind. All men, Jews and Gentiles, are His sheep, and He gave His life for all, being sacrificed on the Cross to redeem them from sin and hell. He is therefore the only Good Shepherd, and all others who are called to the pastoral office are good shepherds only so far as they imitate Jesus in their love and care of the flock confided to them. Moreover Jesus knows His own. He knows all about them, their needs, their weakness, their thoughts, their endeavours; He leads them into the fold of His Church, He helps them by His grace, He enlightens them by His doctrine, and nourishes and strengthens them with His Flesh and Blood in the most Blessed Sacrament. His pastoral love is, therefore, infinite and divine.

The following doctrines are especially conveyed by this parable:

The Sacrifice and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord distinctly foretells His Sacrifice and Death in the words: “I lay down My life for My sheep.”

Jesus is the Lord and Chief Shepherd of the redeemed. The sheep belong to Him, because He has bought them with His Precious Blood.

The One, United, Catholic Church. Our Lord foretold that the Gentiles also would believe in Him, and that all the faithful, both Jews and Gentiles, would be united in one fold, under one Shepherd. According to our Lord’s words there was to be only one Church, and this Church was to be united. It was not to be split up into a multitude of national churches in every part of the world, but was to spread itself by degrees over the whole face of the earth, and all nations were to be gathered into its fold. The Church foretold by our Lord was to be a Catholic or universal Church. Now this one, united, and Catholic Church which, according to His good pleasure, our Lord founded, can only be the Roman Catholic Church, in which the faithful of the five parts of the world are joined together in real unity of faith and government under one Chief Shepherd, the Pope.

The Love of Jesus for sinners. The touching parable of the lost sheep shows our Lord’s compassionate love for individual sinners. The lost sheep signifies a sinner who, obeying his own evil inclinations and the allurements of sin, has separated himself from Jesus, and is shut out from the number of the faithful. But the Saviour does not withdraw His love from this wanderer. Even as, during His sojourn on earth, He laboured for the conversion of sinners, so does He now go after the sinner. He calls him by His grace, by His priests, and invites him to return once more to the fold, by means of the Sacrament of Penance. And when He has found him, He supports him on the difficult road of penance, and receives him back with joy. Jesus does this not for His own sake, since He does not require this straying sinner: He seeks him out of pure love and compassion for the poor sinner himself, wandering about and in momentary danger of falling into the abyss of hell. And it was because the Good Shepherd and His “friends” were so anxious about the salvation of that sheep which was in danger, that their joy at his return and salvation is greater, and shows itself more outwardly, than their calm joy about the faithful who are walking without wavering on the path of salvation.

Grace. We learn from this parable the important doctrine that it is God who gives the first impulse to the conversion or justification of a sinner, moving him to be converted by His preventing grace (conveyed either by inward inspirations, or by the warning words of parents or pastors, or else by misfortune, sickness &c.), and who then supports him by His grace on the road of penance, until he is once more restored to a state of justification in the holy Sacrament of Penance.

The Communion of Saints. If the blessed inhabitants of heaven rejoice over the conversion of sinners, they must have a knowledge of it. It follows, therefore, that the angels and Saints in heaven know about us, care for us, and pray for us.

APPLICATION. Does not the loving compassion of Jesus, the Good Shepherd of our souls, bind us to love Him with all our hearts, and above all things? How have you loved Him hitherto? He has given His life for you; He has called you into the fold of His one true Church without any merit on your part; He has fed you on the mild of His doctrine, and has showered countless graces on you; and how have you repaid Him? Have you always listened to His Voice, and kept His Commandments? Have you not, on the contrary, offended Him every day of your life? Be sorry for your ingratitude, and try to excite in yourself a greater love for Jesus. Say this prayer: “Kindle in me the fire of Thy love.”








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