St. John uses many metaphors to describe who Jesus is among the most beloved is the Good Shepherd. But before we get to the that one we have to literally get past a less beloved one, the gate. For the most part I think we simply try to ignore it. As if it somehow accidentally made its way into the gospel.
We prefer to think of the sheep wandering in the field, running free. We forget two things: sheep aren't all that smart and there are wolves.
If Jesus is the gate then there must be a fence, with an area outside and an area inside. In other words, there are boundaries. And the truth is we all like boundaries. That is, when we are the ones setting them. We want our things. We want our personal space respected. The only time we don't like boundaries is when we want to cross them. Then they are silly.
We pray to God as, Our Father. Today's reading reminds us that like any good parent he has set boundaries. Like sheep, left to our own devices, we wander in an out. It's why we start mass with a penitential rite, and when we wander really far off Jesus gave us the sacrament of penance.
Are there boundaries? Yes. The good news is that there is a gate in the fence and the gate is always open. When we wander off, we can always come back.
Every metaphor has its limits. And where this one breaks down is that we are not animals. Sheep are stupid and the shepherd uses a stick and dog to herd them back in. We on the other hand must choose to enter. Not once in a lifetime but every single day. We must choose to enter through the gate, to stay inside the boundaries. There will always be those things outside that look so good, so tempting. In our arrogance we can think we know better or we can walk close to the edge, push the boundaries. It's what we do.
Today is Sunday. Walk inside the door of your church. Feel welcome. Feel safe. Feel the love and security of being with the flock inside the corral. And know that the door is always open.