In Chapter Ten of his Gospel St. John gave us Our Lord’s wonderful parable of “The Good Shepherd.” At the same time, entwined with it, St. John gave us a quite different one of Our Lord’s parables: the one in which he said, “I am the gate for the sheep.” Today we must grasp what he is telling us with his parable of the gate.
We begin by getting a clear picture of such a sheepfold.
A town like Bethlehem might have a dozen families that kept sheep, and each family would have a younger son who each morning would lead the family’s little flock out to water and grass in the hills.
With stone and clay the dozen families would construct a corral they would fit with a gate and with thorny branches on top of the wall. That was the sheepfold to which each family’s shepherd boy would bring his sheep for the night. One of the twelve boys would need to remain through the night, trying not to doze as he sat hunched in the gateway. He had a ram’s horn for sounding an alarm when thieves came to snatch the sheep. The boy on duty for any night was familiarly called, “the gate.”
In calling himself the gate, Jesus was asking every parent, priest, teacher, doctor, lawyer, supervisor of every stripe to consult with him, to follow his rules. In leading their sheep out for pasturing they cannot say that exceptional circumstance have made it right for them to cheat, to falsify reports, to recommend abortions, to steal a little of the company’s or the government’s money.