The Gate Keeper (John 10:1-16)
Like most parables, the Good Shepherd has more than one audience. Let us consider two: The Pharisees to whom he was speaking; and the Church Today, to whom he is speaking still. The context, which gave birth to this parable, was the Pharisees’ treachery to the Love of God made visible through an Act of Healing.
Willfully blind and deaf, the Pharisees refused to be converted by the witness of The Man Born Blind but healed by Jesus. Instead, they the shepherds of Israel, gave witness to depravity. Reviling Truth, they denied what they saw with their eyes and heard with their ears. They proclaimed Jesus a sinner –they accused Truth to be an Enemy of God. They beguiled their flock to maintain a lie. Jesus responds to their Darkness by revealing his Light. He tells a simple story about a Gate, a Gate Keeper, Sheep, Thieves, and a Good Shepherd.
In those times, at nightfall, the local shepherds would gather their flocks into a common enclosure, where their sheep would be protected. The Gate was the only portal through which the Shepherd could come and go. The Gate Keeper, stood guard over the Gate -allowing only the Good Shepherd access to his Sheep. The Thieves used the cover of Darkness to scurry through the fences and steal the Sheep.
Parables are stories which unlock Reality, allowing the Unknowable to be revealed through the knowable, giving birth to Truth. Two fundamental Truths are revealed in this God-Story. One is Transcendent, pure Gift from the Mind of God: That Jesus is the Christ, the Good Shepherd, the One Sent -to give Voice to God’s Word. The other is Truth-By-Default, ever present, but hidden by the pain of its discovery: Namely, we arrogant humans are but Stupid Sheep, lost without our Good Shepherd, easy prey for the Thief.
What was known, by all at that time, was that sheep only trusted the voice of their shepherd -of he who provided green pastures and living water. For this reason, they recognized his voice and followed only him, as babies their mother. For this reason, the multitude recognized the Voice of God in Jesus, the Good Shepherd, whose Edifying Word was congruent with his life lived. And for this reason, they did not follow the Pharisees, whose pious but Empty Words did not satisfy their souls.
Jesus’ Story exposed, to the Pharisees, their hypocrisy. But also, it exposes the Heart of the Good Shepherd, to his Church today –if we are willing to Believe in his Word, to Listen to and Heed his Voice.
We are children of war. We are born into a battle for our souls. We were created for God –to love and worship him. But the Prince of Darkness, who is the Thief, comes to steal, deceive and lead us into eternal Death. He is a fallen creature of God, Hell Bent, consumed with foiling God’s Love with Man. Mortally wounded by the Cross, his power is confined to Darkness. His works wilt when exposed to the Light of Truth.
The Good Shepherd is God-Become-Man, entering into time and space, to reveal the Truth of our being –our purpose and destiny. This Jesus is not only the historical Son Of God, who shepherded Humanity into The Light, he is also the Gate, the Word of God, Truth itself –through which alone Salvation is found. He is the Voice of God.
There are many Voices in our world today. All of them promising to quench our desires, our thirst for more, to deliver us from want. We all have wandered from the protection of the Good Shepherd. Possibly, we have forgotten his intimate touch –his Voice now that of a stranger. Though he never ceases calling our name, maybe our ears have become untrained, unable to discern between Beckoning Voices.
We are vulnerable. We can convince ourselves at will which Voice is most convenient for us, thus creating our personal “truth”. When another Voice, easier or more delightful, teases our ears, we can change allegiance and still stare, unmoved, into the Mirror of our conscience. How can we, such as we are, know the Voice of Truth?
Truth, the Word of God, enters through the Gate of Jesus. The Gate Keeper is the one who guarantees that it is the Good Shepherd whose Voice is calling out to the Sheep. Who is this one of such authority as to certify Truth? In Jesus’ time, it was the prophet, John the Baptist, who pointed to Jesus and said, “This is the One.” The Voice from Heaven, also attested saying, “This is my Beloved Son, listen to him.” And Jesus’ many miracles spoke boldly of a Truth from above.
But what about today, who is the Gate Keeper of Truth? Who dare lay claim to this Audacious Authority -to certify the Word of God, to attest to what is Truth? Many would say the Bible is now the Gate Keeper. It is not an unreasonable claim. As it is the Word of God, one can argue then, that its Truth testifies to itself. From a Catholic perspective, this answer is true yet insufficient, for individual interpretation precludes unity –denying the Communion of his Word, the very reason of his Coming.
The Bible is our inviolable authority of Truth, but it is not our only authority of Truth. We have Sacred Scripture (the Bible) and Sacred Tradition (loosely, the Apostolic Lens, through which Scripture, and all the teaching that flows from it, is received). In effect, Truth though accessible to the individual, can only be guaranteed by The Gate Keeper -the Apostolic Authority of the Church, that if disregarded, gives free reign to division, and inevitably, religious relativism –where personal opinion displaces tenets of Truth.
This is a hard pill to swallow in our culture of individual rationalism; where Truth is submitted to the mind, and not the mind to Truth; where the thought of a Gate Keeper is abhorrent; where we chart our own course -to suit our notions and needs; where Truth and Obedience are disconnected; where unchecked, every person becomes their own god.Jesus ordained the Role of Gate Keeper because we are, in Truth, Sheep in need of one. Truth is banished from a heart not humbled by Obedient Submission. Jesus founded his Church upon the Rock of the First Gate Keeper. He gave Peter the Keys, not so he could subjugate sheep, but to bind on earth what is bound in heaven – to feed his Sheep, to pasture them in Truth, to ensure the Voice of the Good Shepherd remains Anchored through the tumults of time.