The Good Sheep

Readings for April 22, 2018

Acts 4:8-12
Psalm 118
1 John 3:1-2
John 10:11-18

www.usccb.org/bible/readings/

While there are still shepherds in the world—even in the United States—it’s not a profession that is touted on the pages of the Wall Street Journal, “New Trends in Shepherding a Boon for the Wool Industry!” I also did a quick check on Indeed.com and my search did not produce a single listing for a shepherd. Farming in most of the developed world has as much automation as any high tech factory. If not for reading the bible, I wouldn’t give shepherding any thought at all.

Still, the analogy of Jesus as the “good shepherd” transcends today’s modern society. Shepherds work long hours in physically demanding conditions and keep a watchful eye for predators. They take sheep from pasture to pasture and their goal is to keep every sheep safe and well fed so that the herd’s owner can sell the meat or the wool from the sheep. Shepherding is not a highly rewarding profession. It is blue-collar work whose full benefit goes to the one who owns the flock rather than to the one who tends it. The difference between a “good shepherd” and one with less devotion to their work could mean economic ruin for the owner of the flock.

What might be most surprising about the shepherding profession is that it is the profession God chose for His Son. The Creator of the universe, the King of kings, sent His Son to do the tough, non-rewarding job of shepherding His people. Yet, Jesus did not come seeking money or glory. He came knowing that he would be spurned as quickly as he would be adored. Jesus’ motive comes from something greater: love for us troublesome sheep. As Jesus says in the gospel reading, “A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.” Jesus came to Earth because he has work to do to save us; to save me.

My part in all this is, perhaps, to be the “good sheep.” If Jesus is my shepherd, my job is to know his voice and obey. Admittedly, my attempts at being the good sheep may not always be obvious to Jesus. I am stubborn and don’t always like to stick close to the herd. Nevertheless, it’s important that I follow Jesus because he knows the way—both because he is God but also because he has lived a life on this earth and has done the work I should be focused on emulating.

The reward of following my shepherd is, of course, heaven. But John adds a second reward in his epistle that is equally important: I am lovingly called a child of God. And, despite the mystery of what being a child of God might mean, “We do know when it is revealed we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” As God’s child, as a follower of the shepherd, the truth of my creation in the likeness and image of God is revealed when I see God face-to-face.

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter understands Jesus’ saving role for our lives, manifest through his life, death, and resurrection. This shepherd, this rejected cornerstone, is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. “There is no salvation through anyone else.” Jesus leads, we follow. “One flock, one shepherd.”

I pray that the Spirit fills me so that I, too, can proclaim Jesus my unquestioned shepherd, to whom I listen and obey.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

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