The majority of us have only seen sheep in movies, books or at the petting zoo. Rarely would any shepherds visit our city. Therefore, shepherds and sheep are not part of our reality. We do not often think about them.
Abraham, Moses, King David were all shepherds. The sheep business was thriving 2,000 years ago. Sheep were a popular animal used for sacrifice. Little wonder that Jesus identified Himself as the Good Shepherd. People knew that most sheepherders were in the business for profit, not because they really cared for the sheep. The shepherds bred them, raised them and sold them. They weren’t interested in any kind of personal relationship with sheep. Shepherding was not considered a respectable vocation. When Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd, people probably wondered why Jesus didn’t say that He was the good Teacher, or the good Healer, or the good Rabbi—certainly more worthy images. He was a carpenter but chose the image of the Good Shepherd for all eternity. Perhaps because sheep are pretty helpless without the shepherd, especially in the face of danger. They are at the bottom of the food chain compared with wolves, coyotes, mountain lions. Therefore, shepherding is a fulltime job. We are the sheep. Christ is the Shepherd. The Bishop is Christ in the local Church, the Diocese. The Bishop uses a crosier—a long staff with a hook at the end—to bring back the sheep that strayed from the fold. Presbyters or priests help the bishop because he is just one man and the sheep are plentiful. There have been letters of gratitude for streaming and recording Holy Mass daily. You are welcome. We could do no less, especially during this time of crisis, time of danger, when the wolf is on the prowl. Evil always attacks when we are down.
No secret that family violence rose while we were asked to stay at home. We do not like change and our life was changed in a short span of time. From school to being schooled through the computer. From having to go to work, to being laid off or working at home. From having the freedom to go where we wanted, to curfews and restricted hours of shopping for basic needs. Changes for our benefit, but changes which forced us to adjust. Now that some restrictions have been lifted folks are acting like there is no tomorrow. Sheep are the same way. We need direction. We need the Shepherd to direct us.
Our job to make sure that we are listening to the right voice. There are many voices out there, especially if we watch TV all day. Opinions, fake news, false hope. Good things come to those who wait. If we pretend that there is no danger, then everything will have been for nothing. The voice of the true Shepherd tells us to be patient, to take care of each other, to be prudent. Parents must shepherd their children. Children are also affected by the voices which put the economy above the lives of people. Many things are “on hold”, including the Sacraments. Now is not the time to get discouraged. Just the opposite. We need to encourage one another that all will be well, but not just yet. Meanwhile, our responsibility is to keep our eyes on the Shepherd. Christ does not abandon His Church. The Spirit of God is speaking to us louder than ever. From an apparent evil, the opportunity has been given to grow in unity, if we are listening to the voice of love. Staying home has prompted many to reevaluate their priorities. Families have started praying together. Meals are shared in common with conversation. Parents have made time to listen to their children. The contrary is also true, because the false shepherds are always ready to destroy the family. Happiness does not come from what we own but from how much we love. The Good Shepherd laid down His life for us and continues to give Himself. We influence one another every day, regardless of the circumstances, good times, bad times, all the time.
The days ahead are crucial. The flock needs to be united and to focus on the voice of the Good Shepherd.