• Father Matthew Kuhn

I Am the Good Shepherd

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus,

‘Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”’

God’s infinite love for us has given us the perfect example of self-gift in Jesus. Jesus, our good shepherd, has laid down His life for us on the Cross. He has shown us that love is stronger than death. This love goes beyond any earthly limits. I have been greatly blessed in my own life to have experienced this kind of love, both in giving and receiving.

When I began student teaching, in college, I was surprised by how quickly I came to love my students more than life itself. I found myself sacrificing my free time for their sake. They broke through the typical self-absorption I was living at the time; they drew me out of myself. Without even thinking about it, I found myself doing everything I could to prevent them from suffering any hurts, even at great cost to myself.

I distinctly remember the moment when, hearing of a school shooting on the radio as I drove home, I realized that I would gladly die for my students. I would do whatever I could to protect them, no matter the personal cost. Having no children of my own, this was my first experience of perfect self-giving love. It was instinctual—I didn’t have to think about it, I couldn’t explain it in purely rational terms. Why would I be willing to die for these children who were mostly strangers to me? I was just a temporary student teacher, yet I knew that I couldn’t live with myself if I stood idly by and let any of them come to harm.

Upon greater reflection, I found that this was the kind of love I had learned from my dad. My father, a career soldier and veteran of the Vietnam War, had shown me this kind of self-sacrificing love my whole life. He had made visible the invisible love of God, even to the point of several times literally throwing himself between me and grave danger. I knew how to give this “agape,” this self-giving love, because I knew what it was like to receive that love.

This is how we imitate Jesus, our good shepherd. He gave us the example first, and we extend the same self-giving love to others. Then they, having received the love of Christ from us, can continue to pass it on to others in turn. This is why we glorify the Martyrs and Confessors of the Church—those who have suffered in loving imitation of Christ. We give what we have received; we imitate what we celebrate in the Eucharist—Jesus, Who Is God and Lord, has given us Himself and said: “Do this in memory of me.”

Peace in Christ,

Father Matthew Kuhn

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