April 30, 2023
Fourth Sunday of Easter
St. Augustine’s Catholic Church
JESUS THE SHEPHERD!
I believe the message in our gospel today is that there will always be others trying to lead us. We know Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. But, as we have all heard within our lives, many call out saying they have the message of salvation. So often, however, those messages are poor copies of the words of Christ. So often these preachers know the Word but live a life that is not of Jesus. Some fill their bank accounts, buy expensive cars and large houses, while others lead lust-filled lives with members of their staff. Some even do both. Few seem to follow the example of Jesus.
In order to fully understand the image of Jesus as the shepherd, it is for us to understand the sheep. Sheep have many human qualities. They are intelligent, complex, feeling individuals. According to one study, they have excellent memories and cognition abilities. They know, love, and trust their shepherd.
When Terry and I were in Medjugorje in 2006, we were listening to a religious sister who had been for numerous years a shepherdess. But on one occasion she had to return to the United States to be with her parents. During this time another sister assumed her duties. Sheep, because of their sensitivity to individuals’ voices and smells, are reluctant to follow a shepherd they do not recognize. In this case, the sheep refused to respond to the new shepherd.
When we think of the life of Jesus, He became a leader of many. They trusted Him. He led, healed, and fed His followers. He left us the gift of His holy words and life leading us to God the Father. But He also left us the apostles and the future of our Church through St. Peter. After Jesus, Peter became the new head shepherd as did the apostles. In following the Word we too are called to be shepherds. One would think that we are called to lead sheep.
St. John Bosco had a dream in which he was called to lead goats. Goats, as you may know, are somewhat the opposite temperamentally of sheep. As sheep are followers and obedient; goats are inclined to go their own way and do their own thing. So, in St. John’s dream the flock of goats turn into sheep. The goats are spiritually the lost sheep. As St. John was called, so too are we.
A very special friend of Terry’s and mine is a woman and mother who endured many tribulations in her life and has committed herself to being a shepherdess of wounded lambs and goats. She mentally picks up the broken ones and spiritually chooses to nurse them back to health through prayer.
In truth, I was having great trouble with this scripture in finding its relevance to us in our lives. I knew of course that we were the sheep following Jesus. What I was missing was that we are called to be shepherds to others. A great example of this is a story from our friend’s life. One of her children had a son named Dylan. Dylan’s mother and dad were doing very little for their child, but the grandmother started taking him to church and seeing to his sacraments. He has become a good and holy child who now exclaims that if it weren’t for his ‘grandmaw’ he wouldn’t have faith. We can do many great things in our life if only we try.
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