“Confession is the gate of Heaven. O truly the gate of Heaven and the gate of Paradise, since through it the penitent is invited to kiss the feet, hands and face of God: the feet of His mercy, the hands of His grace and the face of His pardon. O house of God, O gate of Heaven, O confession! Blessed is he who dwells in you! Blessed is he who humbles himself in you! Humble yourselves therefore dearest brethren, and enter through this mystical gate.” - St. Anthony of Padua
Gospel Text: (JN 10:1-10)
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate
but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.
But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice,
as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
When he has driven out all his own,
he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him,
because they recognize his voice.
But they will not follow a stranger;
they will run away from him,
because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”
Although Jesus used this figure of speech,
the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them.
So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
I am the gate for the sheep.
All who came before me are thieves and robbers,
but the sheep did not listen to them.
I am the gate.
Whoever enters through me will be saved,
and will come in and go out and find pasture.
A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy;
I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
This morning we hear comforting words from Jesus concerning being both a shepherd and a gate. Jesus describes himself as the shepherd who enters by the gate. The sheep know him by the sound of his voice. The shepherd knows each sheep so well that he can call them by name. Furthermore, as they hear their name the sheep respond by following him. What is described is a very intimate relationship. The sheep and the shepherd know each other so well that the sheep will not follow anybody else. They will not turn away from the shepherd they trust.
However, that doesn't mean there are not other voices. Actually, it implies there are other voices calling to the sheep. These are the voices of “strangers” who try to lead the sheep away. We see there are those who are dangerous in this world. They call to us constantly and they try to confuse us continually. But as long as we respond to Jesus' call we are safe.
Following Jesus means putting one's own needs as last. Following Jesus means praying for those who hurt us. Following Jesus means forgiving, caring and loving. Hearing Jesus' voice is exemplified by these characteristics.
The bottom line is, there are a lot of different kinds of “gates” in our world and we all must choose which one to pursue. Sadly, some look “good” at first but ultimately will leave us empty and alone. In stark contrast to the many “gates” the world reveals to us, Jesus tells us today at the Mass, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." That's what he meant when he said, "I am the gate."