Thursday, April 23, 2015

Who Are The Sheep of Christ's Flock?

This coming Sunday, April 26, the Gospel reading at Mass is the story of the Good Shepherd.  “Jesus said: “I am the Good Shepherd.  A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep” (John 10:11).  This, to me, says that Jesus died for us, his sheep.  There should be no argument there.  Then, a few verses further on, we read this:  “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock and one shepherd.”  Here there is a little more mystery.  What is the “one flock” he mentions.  At this moment in history, his Church seems to have splintered into many flocks.  Plus, there are many non-Christian churches.  Is the “one flock” the Catholic Church?  Is it the evangelical Protestants?  Is it all those who say they believe in Jesus and prove their faith by good works, Catholics and Protestants alike?  Or does it include Muslims, Hindus and others, as well as Christians?  Or does it mean simply those who lead a virtuous life and that a particular creed is unimportant?  Or is it everyone, regardless of creed or virtue? 

There are other comments made by Jesus that enter into the discussion.  For example, there is the phrase “Judge not lest ye be judged.” (Matthew 7:1).  I take this to mean that we must not speculate on who will be saved and who will not.  In other words, it is up to God.  Jesus also said that “No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6).  In  Acts 4:12, Peter says:  “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”  Does this exclude Muslims, Hindus, and atheists regardless of whether they have even heard of Christ or have a clear conscience despite learning of Christ and his teachings?  Catholics (like me) claim that we are members of the Church Jesus founded, and so have validly instituted sacraments that assist us in our path to salvation.  For example, Jesus said “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:54).  Catholics believe that this is a reference to the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and this is only valid in the Catholic Church which has validly ordained ministers of the Eucharist.  Evangelical Protestants claim that the Catholic Church got off track in the second and third centuries and that the Protestant Reformation put us back on the correct path.  In addition, did Mohammed (Islam) or perhaps Joseph Smith (Mormonism) really get messages from God that put them on the true path to salvation? 

So back the original question:  What group constitutes the true flock of Jesus as referenced in John 10?  Putting it all together, I want to conclude simply that those who are saved are all those who enter heaven on Judgement Day.  It is up to God to say who will be in this group.  We know that he will separate the sheep from the goats on that day.  Will you be a sheep or a goat?  I would say make sure you repented of all sin and have a clear properly-formed conscience with regard to your beliefs, harboring no doubt that your creed and faith practices will make you a sheep in the eyes of God.  For me, it is being devoted to authentic Catholic teaching and to the validly instituted sacraments of the Catholic Church.

My prayer for today:  “Lord, help us to discern your will for how we should live our lives and then join our will to yours so that we may be the sheep of your flock on Judgement Day.  Amen.”

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