January 27, 2018

The Transfer of the Precious Relics (438) of Our Father among the Saints John Chrysostom

Hebrews 7:26-8:2; John 10:9-16

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

The image of Christ as the Good Shepherd is one that perhaps does not have as deep an impact on us today as it should, especially given that many of us have never spent time around flocks of sheep let alone met a shepherd. Yet, to Our Lord’s hearers in today’s Gospel this image would have been a familiar one given the prevalence of sheep herding in the Holy Land. The image of Christ with a sheep on his shoulders is one of the earliest iconographic images that we can find in the ancient catacombs and ruins of ancient churches in the Mediterranean region. This beautiful image of Christ gathering all of us unto Himself for our salvation is one we should reflect on especially as it indicates to us how precious we are to God and how much he cares for us.

This Gospel is appointed for today as we are commemorating the transfer of the relics of one of the greatest shepherds in the history of the Church: St. John Chrysostom. In the late 4th century his relics were brought back to his home church of Constantinople from Armenia where he had died some years earlier on his way into exile. We honour him on this day and on other occasions in the liturgical calendar, including this coming Tuesday with St. Basil and St. Gregory the Theologian, because he took up the call of Our Lord in today’s Gospel: he lovingly and diligently tended the sheep that were given to him by God through his episcopal ministry. The church at Constantinople could be rebellious and fractious, often complicated by the imperial politics of the Byzantine court. It was no cake walk, but St. John spoke truthfully and drew the faithful people to Christ through his brilliant preaching, ascetic witness, and his fearlessness.

St. Ignatius of Antioch famously said that where the bishop is there is the Church. As successors to the apostles our bishops are called to serve the people as shepherds, to lead them in the path towards salvation. It is not an easy road these days, if it ever was. Let us then pray for our local bishop and for all the episcopacy that they might be given strength to lead their flocks as Christ calls them to as the Good Shepherd.