Bishop Mueggenborg has written a three volume commentary on the Sunday Gospel - "Come, Follow Me, Discipleship Reflections." Regarding today's Gospel he comments on what Jesus shows us about being a shepherd. He makes four points. I'd like to underscore the first point. It applies to bishops, priests, parents and pastoral ministers like St. Vincent de Paul, Knights and religious education teachers - all who have a shepherding role.
The first quality of the shepherd regards Jesus relationship with the Father. As Bishop Mueggenborg states, "This relationship is expressed in terms of 'knowing'. The knowledge of which Jesus speaks isn't so much conceptual as it is experiential. Jesus knows the the Father's hopes and concerns. He knows what pleases the Father and what disappoints the Father. It is this knowledge that allows Jesus to manifest the challenging, comforting, encouraging and inspiring presence of God."
I saw this quality in action last week when Archbishop Sartain spoke to the men's conference. He shared his own prayer and reflection on the Word, in this case Chapter 15 of Luke where Jesus talks about the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost soul. After his presentation men came to confessions. I cannot mention anything said under the seal but I can share how moved I was by those men opening their hearts to Lord and to me as Jesus' representative. That happens when people hear the voice of a good shepherd - one who has a deep relationship with the Father, who in Jesus knows the Father.
A good shepherd leads souls to Jesus. It's not Phil Bloom who saves anyone. It's Jesus. In the first reading we see a crippled man healed when Peter prays over him. Lest anyone get the wrong idea, Peter declares that it is in the name of Jesus the cripple "stands before you healed." Then Peter adds, "There is no name under heaven given to the human race by which we are saved."
The Buddha has some valuable teachings. (You can in fact find similar doctrines in the Bible.) But it is not in the Buddha's name that a person is saved. you can say something similar about all great religious leaders: Confucius, Lao Tse, even Mohamed. They all have insights that we can appreciate, yet there's only one name that saves - Jesus! Our faith is inclusive because Jesus includes the entire truth.
We need to be clear, however, in speaking about the truth. As Pope Benedict points out it's not so much that we possess the truth as that the truth possesses us. We want to know the truth: the relationship to the Father made possible through Jesus.
The relationship with the Father, as Bishop Mueggenborg underscores, is the first quality of a good shepherd. "I am the Good Shepherd," says Jesus, "and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father." Amen.