Last Sunday we celebrated Christ the Good Shepherd in our lessons for the morning Holy Communion. These lessons invited us on the one hand to look backwards and see the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday as works of shepherding love — Jesus seeking and finding us not only in life, but even in death, in order to give us his life. The Good Shepherd, as Jesus reminds us in Luke’s Gospel, seeks the lost sheep wherever they may be.
But on the other hand, as we shall see for the next three Sundays, the shepherding love of Christ includes his ascension into heaven — his departure from us in the body in order to be present to us in and through the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is a deep and mysterious spiritual teaching and so the Church prepares us for both the Feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost not by one or two Sundays of reflection, but three (plus additional days of solemn prayer).
In our praying for the second half of the Easter season, we seek not only to know by faith the risen Lord, but to see in his Ascension and sending of the Spirit the perfection of his self-offering love. Indeed, we will discover by the end of May that the life, death and resurrection of our Lord make accessible the fundamental reality of our lives — that it is in God that we live and move and have our being.
For a helpful reflection on the image of Christ as Good Shepherd, please consider listening to Fr Thomas Hopko’s reflections here
Fr Christopher Snook