April 1997

The Word of Life, taken from Scripture, is offered each month as a guide and inspiration for daily living.

“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:11)

The image of the shepherd was familiar to those who were listening to Jesus because it was a part of their culture and daily life, and also because the prophets had made it a messianic symbol. The promised Savior would be a shepherd, a leader, besides being a king.

What would this shepherd be like?

In this parable, which is the dominant theme of the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus emphasizes as many as three times that among the qualities of a true shepherd, the synthesis of them all, the foundation, is that he “lays down his life,” he is willing to sacrifice his life for his flock.

“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”

Jesus will clearly say of himself: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn. 15:13). And he goes through with this offering right to the end.

His love is gift of self, which means that it is a love which is truly ready to offer, to give one’s life.

In this light then, to have only a certain understanding of others, to take a bit of interest in their sufferings, to try in some way to carry their burdens, is not enough to love like Jesus.

“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”

Then how should we put this Word of Life into practice?

God asks us, too, for a love, acts of love which have (at least in our intention and determination) the measure of his love. Whatever we do, moment by moment, to show him our love in a concrete way, must be animated, sustained by this will, by this decision.

Only a love like this is a Christian love: not just any kind of love, not just a veneer of love, but a love so great that we put our very lives at stake.

Every time we meet a neighbor or talk to someone on the telephone or write a letter or carry out our daily work as a service to others, let’s ask ourselves: am I ready to die for him or her? By so doing, we will see a difference in the quality of our lives as Christians, a great difference in quality.

And then we will see men and women from every corner of the globe being attracted to Jesus, attracted by his voice.

Chiara Lubich