“The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.” Ps 23:1
For me, the following story by Sadhu Sundar Singh is the most beautiful illustration of the Good Shepherd.
There was once a man who owned several hundred sheep. He had servants who would take these sheep out for grazing and each evening, as they brought the flock back, they would notice that a few sheep were lost. Yet the servants were unwilling to look for them in fear of thieves and wild beasts. Nonetheless, the owner loved his sheep and wanted to save them. However, he thought to himself, “If I go myself and look for them, they will not be able to recognize me as they have not yet seen me before. This is what I need to do, I must become one of them. He went out and found them gone astray or wounded. They readily followed him, believing him as one of their own. He brought them home, sat with them and fed them. He then took off his sheep skin. He was not sheep but man. He just became a sheep to save the lost and wounded. So it is the same with God, God is not man, He became man in order to save man.
Such is the shepherd we have in Jesus Christ. The Sacred Scriptures, even from the Old Testament has oftentimes described God’s care of His people akin to that of the shepherd his flock. When left to ourselves, like sheep without a shepherd, we can easily be lost, for we only graze where there is grass without ever thinking where we are going. When we stray from the fold, we become vulnerable to predators and prone to becoming injured. Sometimes it is our very own doing and on other times, we just don’t know that we are lost. That is why our Shepherd keeps a constant watch over us, by day and by night. A shepherd is called by his duty to always be with his sheep, to live with his flock. A flock may consist of hundreds or thousands of sheep. So the shepherd strives to know each one by name. The sheep must be able to recognize the shepherd’s voice so that it can follow him for good pasture during the day and for safe shelter each night.
“My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me,” says the Lord. We can be sure that God knows us so the question is, do we really know Him? How can we hear His voice if we do not know Him? The challenge of today’s Gospel is sang by the Psalmist: “Know that He, the Lord is God. He made us, we belong to Him. We are His people, the sheep of His flock.” So we must take time to know our shepherd, for the question who am I, to be answered fully and truly, must go hand-in-hand with the question who is God. Love can only grow with knowing. The deeper our knowledge, the greater will be our capacity to love. The Risen Jesus exhorts us today to know Him by celebrating His life in the Eucharist, by relating with Him who constantly watches over us and lives with us. He knows our deepest desires and our greatest pains for He just not created us, He also became one of us. We need to believe nothing can snatch us from His hands and that through His guidance, we will find life everlasting.
And so we pray to the Good Shepherd: “You know what is yours, keep them and do not let them be separated from you. Give us shepherds according to your heart.”
1st Reading: Acts 13:14.43-52
2nd Reading: Rv 7:9.14b-17
Gospel: Jn 10:27-30