Today’s reading in mass has always been one of my favorites: The Parable of the Good Shepherd. In fact, I love all scripture that talks about sheep and shepherds. I also love all of the Bible’s many parables. They are to me, in a sense, the work of wordsmiths above all wordsmiths and offer so many messages from which we can live and learn by.
The Parable of the Good Shepherd
“Whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him and the sheep hear his voice as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. Amen, amen I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. Whoever enters through me will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. I am the good shepherd and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I will lay down my life for sheep.”
Perhaps what I love most about this passage (John 10) is that Jesus knows us all by our first names. In turn, we are protected when we recognize the voice of God. We have an inner voice to do so, and it’s called the Holy Spirit. If you listen to this voice you will be nourished by it, but if you are filled with your own agenda, you won’t. Jesus will lead you; much like a shepherd leads his sheep, and will show you the way to do things and what decisions to make in order to find that true “pasture,” heaven. We must strive to become part of God’s sheepfold. Jesus laid down His life for us and if we in turn give our lives to Him we will “be full of peace, joy, contentment, understanding, personal satisfaction and fulfillment in life. “
The Lost Sheep
“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the 99 in the desert and go after the one until he finds it? And, when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and rejoices. In just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who have no need for repentance.” (Luke 15: 1-7)
I am often that “lost” sheep but find it so very comforting that God is forever looking for me and carries me on His shoulders each and every time He finds me. I am also comforted in knowing that God is more forgiving of that one “lost” sheep than He might be of the other many sheep that voluntarily follow him. No one is perfect but God loves us all. All we must do is listen, obey, and repent.
When you think about too, sheep are not the smartest of animals. They follow along and rarely forge their own paths, but they know the shepherd will take care of them. We too should follow our shepherd, which is the smartest thing to do.
Shepherds at the Birth of Christ
I have always loved the fact that Jesus, the King of all Kings, chose to be born in a very humble stable rather than a palace and that some of the first people to witness His birth were shepherds, the lowest of the low during those times. This is so very powerful to me. We all, including myself, strive to be “on top” and the best, but maybe we should instead strive to be shepherds.
During one of my Bible Study gatherings we read Luke 2:8-20 over Christmas and discussed what we can learn from the shepherds. These humble workers can teach us to believe, to obey, to tell others about Him, and to be humble. They are life lessons we can all benefit from.
I’d like to close by including Father Izzy’s “From Our Pastor” letter in today’s bulletin:
“The fourth Sunday of Easter generally focuses on the image of Christ as the Good Shepherd. Even though in our modern world we would rarely, if ever, encounter a shepherd, the image of the Good Shepherd still evokes comfort, protection, guidance, and divine care. Sheep wander the pasture all day and rely on the voice of the shepherd to guide them back to safety for the night. Similarly, God lets us exercise our freedom and meander through life, but if we go astray, we can always rely on the Word of God to guide us back to the way in Jesus Christ.”