Laura G. Hancock
Today’s readings seem to be so clearly following a theme and pattern. Especially when considering the Psalm (“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”), the 2nd Reading (“For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd…”), and the Gospel, which uses words like, “sheepfold,” “thief,” “robber,” “shepherd,” and “gatekeeper.” So, when the learned men in the Gospel were confused by Jesus’ story, it seemed so obvious to me that Jesus would explain the story to them by saying, “Amen, amen, I say to you, ‘I am the good shepherd.”
That’s not what Jesus said to them.
At least not yet.
What Jesus said to the confused people was, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate…”
Huh?! The gate?? The gate isn’t even a person! If not the shepherd, shouldn’t Jesus have at least claimed to be the gatekeeper… or even the thief or the robber? What could this possibly mean?
And yet, Jesus clearly said, two times, “I am the gate.”
What I’ve come to think, after a lot of pondering and prayer, is that Jesus is saying that he (and his way of life) provides the threshold between the safety and protection of the sheepfold and the important sheep-ly work of being out in the world as sheep. Or, if we are the sheep (and I think we are), Jesus provides the threshold between the safety and protection of home (is this what Jesus means by being “saved”?) and the important work of being human out in the world.
Inside the gate, we can find rest, healing, comfort, and safety.
Outside the gate, we can find nourishment, strength, growth, and purpose.
Jesus shows us how to transition between both means of existence. We need both prayer and purpose, contemplation and action. Enclosure and freedom.
Once my mind settled on this metaphor of the gate as the threshold between home and the world, my heart was drawn towards all those who do not easily experience these means of existence. I acknowledge that many people in the world do not have a home of rest and safety. Perhaps they are migrants on the way, or persons with volatile family members, or people without access to safe, dignified living conditions. Or perhaps someone may be out in the world, wandering around, seemingly without purpose, or perhaps they are a person who experiences violence (or fears the threat of violence) because of any number of factors of identity.
And yet, Jesus encourages movement towards life, both inside the gate and outside of the gate. Because he is the threshold between the two. He is the gate.
My prayer is that we all may have access to the threshold between the safety of home and a meaningful life of purpose out in the world. That we may be safe; that we may experience freedom; that we may “have life and have it more abundantly.”
Laura knows that to experience the presence and wisdom of one’s soul will expand our ability to love, transform our own lives, and create a more whole society. Learn more at www.SoulcareMKE.com.