This past Sunday's Gospel was the familiar "I am the Good Shepherd" passage. Jesus did not originally call himself the shepherd, though. He had to change gears because his audience did not understand what he was saying to them. So, in today's Gospel, we get the prelude, in which Jesus says, "he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. . . Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep." (John 10:2-4,7) The shepherd is the one who enters by the door, and Christ is the door. But if Christ is the door, then who is the shepherd?
As a Catholic, I am quite content to find the answer within the very same Gospel. In John 21:15-19, we see an encounter between Peter and the risen Christ. Three times, Jesus asks, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Once for each denial. After the first profession of love, Jesus tells him, "Feed my lambs." After the second profession, "Tend my sheep." And the third time, "Feed my sheep." Christ is the gate, but he did not leave his sheep without a shepherd.
Peter, the rock upon which the Church is built, to whom Christ gave the keys to the Kingdom, and his successor is our shepherd. If we heed his voice, he will lead us to heaven through Christ. As the vicar of Christ, he is the visible representative of him who ultimately is our true shepherd. I mean to say that looking to Peter as our shepherd does not supplant Christ himself as the good shepherd. We follow our German Shepherd not because of who he is, but because of the authority entrusted to him (i.e., to Peter and his successors) by Christ.