4th Sunday of Easter
“What does it take to be a good shepherd?”
I was curious to find out and did a little Googling. Catholic News Service profiled a shepherd in Italy named Fabrizio. He oversees about 60 sheep in the rural hills about 40 miles east of Rome.
He said that sheep actually need a shepherd, because they have no natural hierarchy, no leader of the flock.
The sheep learn to trust the shepherd, he said, as “they hear and understand the voice, the smell, the behavior of the person who is looking after them every day.
He said a shepherd needs to be someone who is “in tune with nature, decisive” and willing to bear the long hours, inclement weather, hard work and sacrifice—and do it out of devotion to his flock.
A good shepherd, he said, should “not be afraid of anything.”
Doesn’t that describe Christ? But in the gospel we just heard, Jesus takes it even further.
“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”
As most of you know I recently spent a week in Ireland. Those of you who have been there, too, you know that shepherding is a major industry there. Sheep are everywhere!
Most of the sheep there aren’t pure lambs with “fleece as white as snow. The ones we saw had fleece filled with mud and dirt. They didn’t look anything like lamb in the nursery rhyme. Yet, those sheep are the most important possessions in the lives of those shepherds and their families. They would risk everything to keep them safe.
We are still in the Easter season surrounded by the beauty of the Easter flowers, but we cannot forget the hard, dead, wood of the cross of Good Friday.
We cannot forget how this good shepherd laid down his life for us. And he didn’t do it because we had “fleece as white as snow.” Far from it. We are as muddy and as ordinary and as unclean as those sheep I saw in Ireland. We aren’t always beautiful.
But the Good Shepherd who is Christ loves us anyway.
And he calls on us to love one another the same way. And this may be our greatest challenge.
We need to support those who are frail…nurture those who are weak…lead back those who are lost…comfort those who are afraid…love those who are covered with dust from the journey.
By the way, this describes a great mom, too, right? Good Shepherd Sunday is the perfect day to thank God for all of our moms (living and deceased) who have shepherded us throughout all our lives.
The women who support us when we are frail…nurture us when we are weak…lead us back when we are lost…comfort us when we are afraid…love us when we are covered with dust from the journey.
All of the women who protect us from the wolves!
If we are to be imitators of Christ, we must be willing to be more than sheep. We must also be shepherds—good shepherds to each other and good shepherds of our faith. We must be unafraid, devoted, steadfast.
This is what a good shepherd does. This is what Christ has done for us. This is what we must do for each other.