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271. One Flock, One Shepherd (John 10:11-18)

April 25, 2012 by  
Filed under Fr. Bartunek, Meditations, The Better Part

“Death is certain, and life is short and vanishes like smoke. Therefore you must fix your minds on the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ who so burned with love for us that he came down from heaven to redeem us.”  - St. Francis of Paola

John 10:11-18: ‘I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep. The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and the sheep do not belong to him, abandons the sheep and runs away as soon as he sees a wolf coming, and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep; this is because he is only a hired man and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. And there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and these I have to lead as well. They too will listen to my voice, and there will be only one flock, and one shepherd. The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will, and as it is in my power to lay it down, so it is in my power to take it up again; and this is the command I have been given by my Father.’

Christ the Lord  Jesus Christ was sent to the Jews to be their Messiah in accordance with God’s ancient promises to his Chosen People. Yet God was not satisfied to save only one group of people –  he wants his blessing to reach all nations, every corner of the earth. Christ the Savior, then, receives Lordship not only over the little flock of Israel and Judah but over all the flocks of the earth. In him, we all come under one Lordship, that of the Good Shepherd, who is the one pastor of the one flock. The effect of the wolf (the devil) is to catch and scatter the sheep; Christ frees and unites us. And even if the wolf attacks the shepherd himself, as he will during Christ’s Passion, the shepherd has the power both to lay down and raise up his life, so the one flock will never perish, never be scattered, never be captured. Because Christ the Good Shepherd is our Lord, the Church (the one flock) will never fail. Our membership in this flock is perhaps the greatest gift we have received from the Lord after the gift of life itself. Unfortunately, we often take them both for granted.

This is one of the most compelling reasons behind the Church’s missionary mandate. We are all called to spread the Good News of Christ, to “make disciples of all nations,” bringing everyone into this one flock. Only the Catholic Church has the divine guarantee that it will never fail (never be scattered by wolves). Other churches and other religions may have sincere believers and parts of the truth, but only Christ’s one flock gathered around his vicar’s staff is guaranteed never to fail. Building the Kingdom of the Lord, then, means building up his Church.

Christ the Teacher  The fall of Adam and Eve came about as a result of their lack of trust in God. Jesus Christ came to win back that trust. By giving up his own life to atone for our sins, he showed that the Father is worthy of our trust, that he will forgive us, protect us, and lead us to rich pastures. God will never abandon us in our need – never. The Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ are his proof. Though the wolf (the devil) attacked and scattered Christ’s disciples on that first Good Friday, Christ did not flee; he gave up his own life, freely suffering what in truth we, because of our sins, deserved to suffer and freely obeying with the total obedience that Adam and Eve had lacked. Because of his docility in embracing the Father’s will, the Father rewarded him by raising him from the dead. Christ was faithful to his mission, even knowing what it was going to cost him. That mission consists in saving us from sin and estrangement from God. He is the Good Shepherd, the one we can trust, the one who cares more about our lives than we do ourselves, the Lord who came not be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for ours.

Note how this mission of carrying out the Father’s plan, of obeying the Father’s will, consumes Jesus and constitutes in his mind the entire meaning of his life: “The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again… and this is the command I have been given by my Father.” This is how Christ, the perfect man, lived out his human existence, focusing wholly on the Father’s will, being passionately faithful to his sonship. To discover and fulfill our own identity as children of God, and thus experience life as he created us to live it¬ – both now and in eternity – Jesus invites us to do the same: “The sheep follow, because they know his voice” (John 10:4).

Christ the Friend  Jesus: I know my own and my own know me. When I created you, I built two needs into your soul: the need to love and the need to be loved. If you don’t learn to love, you will never flourish, and if you don’t discover that you are loved, you will never learn to love. Love is always a two-way street – an exchange, an embrace. It’s much harder for you to let yourself be loved than it is to love, because to be loved, you have to let yourself be known. You cannot be loved fully by someone who doesn’t know you fully. This is why every earthly love is precarious; you never know if the person who loves you will continue to do so when they know you better.

I know you through and through, completely, even better than you know yourself. I know all the things you keep hidden from others, all the things about you that you barely understand yourself. I know you so thoroughly because I gave you life, I brought you into existence, and I have been holding you and sustaining you every instant of your life. I know you uniquely and totally, so I can love you as no one else can. You never have to worry about my love waning, because I have already shown you, while you were still a sinner, still a rebel, that my love endures to the end, even to death on a cross. You have nothing left to fear. Nothing is hidden from me, and yet I still love you without an ounce of ambiguity or reluctance. I know you, and now you know me. I love you, so come now and love me…

Christ in My Life  How can I thank you for bringing me into your flock and saving me from so many dangers? You have called out to me, and you have given me ears to hear your voice. Never let me be separated from you, Lord. Only you love me enough to lay down your life for my sake. Teach me to be worthy of your love. Teach me to be docile, to stay at your side no matter what…

I am so used to thinking about your sacrificial love. I look at crucifixes all the time. But I know that I haven’t plumbed the depths of this lesson. You gave your life because you loved me. How can I discover the full import of that truth? I think it’s only by following in your footsteps. Only by giving my own life for your Kingdom, by sacrificing myself for the good of my neighbor and those around me…

How can I love you, Lord? Love wants to give, but what can I give you that you don’t already have? I know the answer, Lord. I can love you by loving those you put into my life. Every one of them. You love them, and so you are within them, and when I love them, I am loving you. May our wills become one…


PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". He has also published two other titles: "Meditations for Mothers" and "A Guide to Christian Meditation". Fr. John currently splits his time between Rome and Rhode Island, where he teaches theology as an adjunct professor at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum and at Mater Ecclesia College. He is also continuing his writing apostolate with online retreats at and questions and answers on the spiritual life at FATHER JOHN'S BOOKS include: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer", Inside the Passion--The Only Authorized Insiders View of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, Meditations for Mothers, and A Guide to Christian Meditation.

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  • Becky313

    One flock, one shepherd……unity of heart and mind….God grant us the grace to see the need and make these a reality once again!

  • Mary@42

    “I know you through and through, completely, even better than you know yourself.”

     Yes, Jesus, I hear and love You for loving me just the way I am, miserable and deformed by the leprosy of sin and sinful tendencies which have imprisoned my heart in the dark Dungeon and chained me with iron chains.  Now I plead to You my Lord, remove from me everything that is contrary to what you created me to be.  I cannot help myself.  But, Jesus, You are my God and Saviour. You are All Powerful, All Loving, All Compassionate, All Merciful. Only You Who will break the iron doors of the Dungeon, release me  and re-create my wretched heart and soul and make me whole the way You cured the man with leprosy.  

    So like that man I pray, My Lord You can heal me if You want.  And I am consoled by your response: “Of course I want to – be healed”.

     And it is to heal me that You died such a cruel, horrible death so that You would rise again on the Third Day and give me hope for Eternal Life with You.  Do not loosen Your grip on my hand – even for a single second – or I shall perish to perdition.


  • Cara

    Just wondering… How do the 33,000 Protestant denominations deal with the ” one flock, one Shepherd” concept?

    • Mary@42

      They either ignore it, or just say Jesus was saying that figuratively.  But often their defence is that the Bible “says”….  if you believe in your heart Jesus is the Saviour and declare with your mouth that He is your Personal Saviour, you have already won admission to Heaven!!!!! And since they are all Christians they are in the “flock of the Shepherd”

  • Dailybreadeditor

    I’m often amused by the understanding people often have of the ‘good shepherd’. I think most people imagine that the good shepherd dotes on his sheep like pets, they forget that the shepherd is preparing his sheep for meal or sacrifice!

    • Becky313

      I get my understanding from the words of Jesus Himself, which tell us – as illustrated very nicely in this post – of His great love for us and of the way He will care for us, protecting us from dangers we are often not even aware of.  He also sacrificed Himself on our behalf and becomes our ‘meal’ at every Mass.

      Are you saying there is a surprise ending that we don’t know about?

  • Suzanne Shapiro

    I am a Protestant – an Episcopalian.  I note the sometimes controversial comment that Jesus has “other sheep that are not of this fold and I must lead them, too.”  Personally, I take that to mean that we all had the Divine Breath breathed into us and we became a “living soul.”  Protestants, Roman Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Indiginous Peoples of all continents (whose belief systems are older than Christianty) are in the loving care of their Father and He will provide for them in ways not known to Christians.  We will not know until we get to His Presence, then all will become clear.  God is pure love, pure light and pure truth.  He will not tarnish that purity.

  • danburke

    Welcome! Catechism numbers 839 and beyond address this issue in unambiguous terms. You can find the entire treatment here:

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  • judeen

    we forget,, God thinks different than we do… the church excepts all who are baptized in the name of the Father , the son and the Holy Spirit  and part of the church…. yet we do not hear this even from the preists… 1 flock… God is bigger than us… He will lead others who are not part of His flock…. who are they?  everyone could fit in this… for God made them all… then in the end… after all is done.. when hearts have been tested and guided… those who still do not want to follow….? or is it something else…..? God is so grand … He knows everything…… let us follow Him ….

  • judeen

    I was kind of broad when I talked about preist… this is what I meant.. we need to pray together… and not worry if they belong to our church.. if we beleive in 1 true God.. and Jesus… who came to save us… God loves us all… yet as a catholic beleiving the same is powerful ,,, even pentacostals.. know when they join together in prayer for someone.. the unbeleivers.. must not be in the circle of prayer.. for it weakens it… and other faiths understand this… unity in beleif is prayer… yet we must not divide our selves because of faith…… am I making sense?

  • danburke

    Not only is unity in belief important, without it, there is no unity at all.

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