HAPPY GOOD SHEPHERD’S SUNDAY!
It’s a lot of work to be a shepherd and it’s even more work to be a good shepherd. To love sheep properly and care for them correctly is DIFFICULT work. On this 4th Sunday of Easter let me make a reflection what does it mean to be a good shepherd and to be a good sheep!
First of all, sheep are, shall we say, “small of brain” – they just aren’t very smart. Besides that, and maybe BECAUSE of that, they are fearful and they panic easily – they are jumpy. In that time, when a shepherd took his sheep to the place he wanted them to sleep at night, he did three important things.
- He put them in a green, protected pasture.
- He built a fire for warmth, light, and protection.
- He was sure there was a nearby source of QUIET water.
All of this was done because the shepherd understands his sheep. He knows that when they wake, they are hungry. If they can’t immediately find food, they become very restless and agitated – and then they CAN’T eat – they get too upset. So, if the shepherd puts them to sleep at night with their faces right in the grass — the food — they will have no trouble finding it upon awakening. They will be peaceful and calm and ABLE to eat.
Another thing the shepherd knows about the sheep is that they are very much afraid of moving water. Their vision is poor, and they are confused by all the movement they see in the water, so they won’t go near it. The sheep will drink only from restful water.
Because sheep have such poor vision, and because they are not particularly sure-footed, the shepherd has to carefully choose the right paths on which to walk them.
No doubts, shepherds must understand their sheep. They know what makes them tick. They do not get annoyed with them for being sheep. They do not reject them when they display the characteristics that sheep display. In fact, they find them very appealing. They love their sheep, and are able always to leave 99 to look for the one that is lost.
In the same way, Jesus shepherds us with care and concern, with insight into the nature of the beast, with acute awareness of how we think. KNOW that you can turn to Jesus, Your Good Shepherd. He will not find you annoying, he will not reject you. In fact, he will find you wonderfully lovable and appealing. Jesus loves you, just how you are.
He will guide you and guard you, protect you and direct you. He is your shepherd. He knows you well. You never get lost in the crowd. He has his eye on you at all times. He knows you are his and that his flock is not complete without you.
The Lord is YOUR shepherd – it’s true, YOU shall not want. But, as sheep we have a role in this too. Our role is to get to know the voice of our shepherd. To do this we have to practice. To practice we have to spend time in prayer, quietly listening – deliberately trying to learn the sound of Jesus’ voice. How can we possibly come under the loving care of someone unless we are listening for that voice? The voice of Jesus is always available to us, always speaking to us. The question is – do we recognize it when we hear it? Are we listening?
Take some time this upcoming week to simply sit and listen. Sit still and listen for the voice of your shepherd, Jesus, the Good Shepherd. PRACTICE listening for and learning the voice of Jesus in your own life. So even if you would “…walk in the dark valley you fear no evil; for Jesus, your Good Shepherd will be always at your side!”
P.S. April 25, Good Shepherd Sunday, is the 58th World Day of Prayer for Vocations. This commemoration is an opportunity to pray for and promote vocations to consecrated and ordained life. “Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest” (Mt 9:38; Lk 10:2). Please pray that young men and women hear and respond generously to the Lord’s call to the priesthood, diaconate, religious life, societies of apostolic life or secular institutes.
Have a blessed week.