The parable of the Good Shepherd as we have it in John’s Gospel: 10:1-18, is made up of several parts. We will examine two parts of this segment. The first part explains the ‘gate’ and its’ significance, and the second part is concerned with the relationship between the ‘shepherd’ and the ‘sheep’ and therefore focuses on the ‘shepherd’.


There are two types of shepherds here: The hired hand who is not invested with the interest of the sheep, and the Shepherd who owns the sheep. Only the true shepherd would protect the sheep from harm. This is in contrast with the hireling who will run away when danger approaches. Here the parable refers to the Pharisees who would not risk themselves for the good of the people they lead. We are given insight to the shepherd who knows his sheep intimately. This allusion to the True Shepherd corresponds with the earlier verses of this chapter where the shepherd knows the sheep by name. This ‘knowing’ echoes the Old Testament – Jer 1:5 where our Father has an intimate relationship with his children and can also be found in Jn 8:28 – So Jesus said: When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am He and that I do nothing of my own accord. What I say is what the Father has taught me;’, we understand deeply that Jesus knows us just as the Father knows us individually.


The purpose of this knowing is to bring us into union with one another as we are of the same flock. There will be one flock and one shepherd. There is no true union with the Shepherd if there is no union with one another. The commandment of Jesus, as we see it in Jn 13:34 ‘love one another as I have loved you’ should be seen in this context.


In this parable we see the willingness of the shepherd to die for the sheep. The shepherd does this so that the sheep may continue on with life, a life that will be abundant with the graces coming from the resurrection of the Shepherd.


The parable includes other sheep that are not of this fold but the shepherd looks after them as well. The sheep that are not of the fold are out there who hears the shepherd’s voice but have not fully recognise the person to the voice. As we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday, the focus has always been on vocations to the priestly and religious life. We do need more shepherds who will emulate the Good Shepherd. Essentially, without shepherds, the sheep will be wandering as no direction is given. If it is always left to others to pray for vocations or left to others to answer the ‘call’; we would ourselves be the victims of our own lack of action to promote vocations.