The Second Sunday After Easter The Gospel John 10 v.11 Wednesday Meditation
GOSPEL Jn 10:11-16.
At that time Jesus said to the Pharisees: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep. But the hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and flieth: and the wolf catcheth, and scattereth the sheep: And the hireling flieth, because he is a hireling: and he hath no care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know mine, and mine know me. As the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father: and I lay down my life for my sheep. And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.
There be three degrees of comparison in shepherds as in other things, a good shepherd, a better,, and best of all.
Christ called himself but a good shepherd in the lowest degree of comparison, but St. Peter called him, the Prince of Shepherds, that is to say the best of shepherds.
When the prince of shepherds, sayeth he, shall appear you shall receive an incorruptible crown of glory. Where we may observe, that Christ, though It behooved him to commend himself not for himself but for us and our instructions as aforesaid; he commended himself in the lowest degree, to be only a good shepherd, not better then this or that, as the Pharisee who said, he was not like the publican that was by him, meaning he was better.
Likewise that Christ did not compare himself to an Emperor or king or any great person, but to so mean and poor a thing as a shepherd, where we may learn of Christ to be humble and modest and sparing of our own praise, and of St. Peter to be bountiful of the praise of others..
That good shepherd Jacob expostulated thus with his Father-in-law Laban whose sheep he kept, to marry with his daughter: I have been with thee, sayeth he, twenty years, thy sheep (by my industry) have not been barren, neither have I showed thee of any that hath been carried away or devoured of beasts, but I have born the loss thereof myself, day and night did I endure heat and cold, and sleep did fly from my careful eyes: With how much more cause might our divine shepherd Christ Jesus say unto his eternal Father, Thirty three years have I served thee most diligently in this vale of misery, in which I have labored that thy sheep should not be barren, and I have fed them abundantly with heavenly doctrine miracles & good examples of life, all the damage and hurt the infernal wolf hath done thee I have paid for to the full.
To preserve thy flock I have taken great pains and suffered extremity of heat, cold, hunger, and once in particular I was so weary and so thirsty that I was fain to sit down upon a well to rest me, and to beg a little water to drink of a Samaritian woman, with which people because they were schismatics from them, the Jews had no commerce or conversation. I have watched many a night upon the mountains in prayer and tears: and whereas other shepherds have profit of their sheep and feed of their flesh; I feed my sheep with my own flesh; I say unto them with these sweet and loving words, Come take & eat, this is my body, this is my blood.
And if any doubt of the verity hereof, I tell them my flesh is truly meat, my blood truly drink: I call my Apostle Paul to expound it to my sheep accordingly, and tell them if they eat & drink it unworthily, they eat and drink their own damnation notdiscerning my body. He further asketh them this question, if it were no question but an answer, is not the bread we bless the communication of the body of Christ, and the cup the communication of the blood?
Besides infinite wounds and strips I suffered for them, I suffered my side to be opened with a spear to pour out bowels of my love upon them and to show them that if I had had any more blood left in my body, as I had none but a little and that mingled with water, I would most willingly have shed it for them.
Let us consider here at how dear a rate Christ purchased our souls.
Let us consider by the greatness of the price, the value of our souls, for Christ as he was a most loving shepherd, so was he a most prudent merchant & would not pay so dear unless there were some good proportion: let us consider this I say, and take heed we be not so careless and prodigal of our souls, as to lose them or hazard them for a trifle, as all the whole world is indeed in comparison of a soul: and if we do, thought God out of his love esteemeth it a loss to him, the loss indeed is ours and not his, and the loss is so great that Christ sheweth it by way of Interrogation or asking a question: What availeth it a man (sayeth he) to gain all the world and loose his soul? As if it were so gross a folly as is worthy of nothing but to be wondered at, and never wondered at enough.
And though our good shepherd hath provided such sovereign sustenance as is his own very flesh & blood which is able not only to preserve our souls alive but to make them fat, & lusty: yet we may starve them.
Or so use it that we be never the better, but the worse: and one special thing is, that may May hinder the operation thereof though we frequent it never so much (as happeneth in our corporal food) if we do not masticate or chew it well in the eating, that is to say, consider well the benefit and excellency of such heavenly food & our unworthiness thereof.
But you will ask how often should we frequent this heavenly food?
Once a month is the longest the Council of Trent adviseth unto Religious persons, sess.25.cap.10. Once a week, to wit upon Sundays, was the most they used in the primitive Church; the mean between both, which is commonly best even in the best things, is once a fornight or three week; less then a month, in those that would imitate religious persons, is too much neglect, oftener then a week too much singularity and presumption, especially if it be accompanied with emulation & contempt of others that do not so.