“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” (John 10:10)
Wherever animals are kept, there are always two likely categories of visitors; shepherds or thieves. A shepherd feeds the sheep, provides pasture and warmth for them, and develops a personal relationship with them; that is, he gets to know the sheep by name.
However the thief conscious of his intention does not enter by the door, he is a stranger to the sheep, and he comes pretending to care for them but all he does is to steal, kill and destroy.
We are either shepherds or thieves. It is either we are after the wellbeing of those under us or after our own pockets. The shepherd is genuinely concerned about the welfare of the sheep but the thief only thinks of what he hopes to gain from the sheep.
In the end, the thief ends up stealing, killing, and destroying the sheep. This is what happens when persons in positions of authority misuse their power. The saying goes, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Jesus mentioned that the thief never enters by the gate but jumps through the fence. This represents the dubious things we do just to get into positions of leadership such as electoral malpractices, joining secret societies, bribing, stealing, or even killing our fellow human beings.
The thief operates by the principle of divide and rule. The thief thrives by creating division and sowing seeds of hatred and ethnic rivalry among the sheep On the other hand, a true shepherd does not discriminate between sheep. He carries everyone along.
This was the experience of Peter in the first reading today. In a vision, he was made to understand that the mission of evangelization was never intended to be limited only to the traditional Jews but the Gentiles as well. Before God, all men are equal and a good shepherd knows this.
St. Paul would later add in Galatians 3:27-29 “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”
What kind of leader am I? Do I know my sheep by name? Am I concerned about their welfare or is leadership just a job for me (an opportunity for self-aggrandizement)? Do I show favouritism to a section of my sheep?
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, shepherd of my soul, give me a heart that welcomes rather than discriminates my fellow sheep. Amen.
Bible Study: Acts 11:1-18, Psalm 41 and John 10:1-10).