15,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square in Vatican City Photo: Vatican Media

What does Jesus mean when he says that the shepherd lays down his life for his sheep? Pope Francis explains

Allocution on the occasion of the recitation of the Regina Coeli on Sunday, April 21, 2024

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(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 04.21.2024).- Some 15,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City to listen to the Pope’s address and to pray with him the Marian prayer of the Regina Coeli at noon on Sunday, April 21. The following is an English translation of Pope Francis’ remarks.


This Sunday, is dedicated to Jesus the Good Shepherd. In today’s Gospel (cf. Jn 10:11-18), Jesus tells us that, «The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep» (v. 11). He highlights this aspect so much that He repeats it three times (cf. vv. 11, 15, 17). But in what sense, I ask myself, does the shepherd give his life for the sheep?

Being a shepherd, especially in Christ’s time, was not just a job, it was a way of life: it was not an occupation which took up a defined amount of time, but it meant sharing entire days, and even nights, with the sheep, living- I would say- in symbiosis with them. Indeed, Jesus explains that He is not a hired man who cares nothing for the sheep (cf. v. 13), but a man who knows them (cf. v. 14): He knows the sheep. This is the way things are, He, the Lord, the shepherd of us all, calls us by our name and, when we are lost, He looks for us until He finds us(cf. Lk 15:4-5). Moreover, Jesus is not just a good shepherd who shares the life of the flock; Jesus is the Good Shepherd who has sacrificed His life for us and, has given us His Spirit through His resurrection. 

This is what the Lord wants to tell us with the image of the Good Shepherd: not only that He is the guide, the Head of the flock, but above all that He thinks about every one of us, and that He thinks of each of us as the love of His life. Consider this: for Christ, I am important, He thinks of me, I am irreplaceable, worth the infinite price of His life. And this is not just a way of speaking: He truly gave His life for me, He died and rose again for me. Why? Because He loves me and He finds in me a beauty that I often do not see myself.


Brothers and sisters, how many people today think of themselves as inadequate or even wrong! How many times do we think that our value depends on the goals we achieve, on whether we succeed in the eyes of the world, on the judgments of others! And how many times do we end up throwing ourselves away for trivial things! Today Jesus tells us that we are always infinitely worthy in His eyes. So, in order to find ourselves, the first thing to do is to place ourselves in His presence, allowing ourselves to be welcomed and lifted up by the loving arms of our Good Shepherd. 

Brothers, sisters, let us ask ourselves: am I able to find the time, every day, to embrace this assurance that gives value to my life? Am I able to find the time for a moment of prayer, of adoration, of praise, to be in the presence of Christ and to let myself be caressed by Him? Brother, sister, the Good Shepherd tells us that if you do this, you will rediscover the secret of life: you will remember that He gave His life for you, for me, for all of us. And that for Him, we are all important, each and every one of us.

May Our Lady help us to find in Jesus what is essential for life.

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