This week, we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday. The image of Jesus as a shepherd is commonly depicted in art.Young man with medium to long hair, sheep around him perhaps one over his shoulder, a staff. But what is the difference between an image of Jesus the Good Shepherd and another person as a regular shepherd? What makes Him “good”? Before becoming king, David was a young shepherd. Moses did some shepherding and so did Abraham. If you looked at the image we have in our vestibule, pictured above, would you be able to confidently say that it’s Jesus and not someone else? What is the difference between the shepherding styles of Jesus and of David? Why don’t we use an image of Jesus the Good Carpenter because that was actually the job He had, anyway? Perhaps, you’ve never asked any of these questions but we have questioned the goodness of our Lord’s shepherding. Maybe we have encountered an obstacle in life when we questioned the Shepherd’s goodness. Maybe we experienced some pain and, at that moment, felt the pain of what might seem like the absence of a “Good Shepherd.” Maybe you were that one sheep that wandered from the other 99 and you felt as though God didn’t come looking for you. Perhaps any image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd wouldn’t stick out among images of other biblical shepherds but today’s readings truly remind us that there is a difference.
We need to learn the voice and love of our Shepherd. We can’t project our own human imperfection on Him. We may have been let down by others before, but the Good Shepherd is different. Our Shepherd comes looking for us but even if we continue to flee from His safety. Lord, we pray that You teach us Your unique, loving, humble, and persistent call. We know that You never tire in looking for us. We thank You for not giving up on us even if the rest of world does. Others conditionally love us. Others love us in exchange for something else. Others would walk away and not even think twice, but You, our Good Shepherd, never will. That is the difference between You and other shepherds. You don’t seek repayment. You don’t put a price on Your love… if You wanted to give us any more than You already have, You couldn’t –You gave it all to us by laying down Your life. How insignificant am I –a lost sheep who consistently chooses to escape from You, the source of all that I am? Yet, You teach me that my life is valuable and worth trading Yours for. We also pray for the shepherds You’ve called and who have learned Your voice… We pray for those men You’ve called to shepherd Your flock on earth –our Priests. We pray for all of those men who have acted in Your place and have guided us home when we were lost. We pray for the priests who baptized us, who heard our confessions, who first introduced You to us through Holy Communion, who are tangible images of Your love in our moments of darkness. We praise You for calling them and ask You to bless them all especially today. We pray for an increase in vocations among men and women to lead even more of Your flock back Home to You.
Thank You and we love You.