I have two homilies in me on this Sunday’s readings. I don’t know which one I’ll share, though I might end up sharing both, since I’ll probably be preaching in two different celebrations – in a Celebration of the Word in a remote village and at a Mass in one of the municipalities in the parish.
The first perspective on Jesus as the Good Shepherd that I want to share is of a shepherd who encourages and consoles us.
Jesus care for us, the sheep. He knows us – with all our faults and all our gifts. He wants the best for us. John in the second reading reminds us that “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.”
Jesus seeks us out. Knowing us, as sometimes lost and wandering, he has come from the Father to seek us out. He finds us even in the brambles and carries us back to the flock. If he carries us on his shoulders, it’s quite likely that our bowels will be loosened in fright and we’ll crap down his back. But he loves us with all our crap – and wants to carry us back to the security of the flock.
Jesus also guards and protects us. When we are with Him, we may face dangers – but He is there at our side.
But he loves us so much that He willingly gives us life for us. Yes, it is dangerous and fearful. He did sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. But He knows that giving up oneself brings life.
Jesus, God-made-flesh, is the Good Shepherd who is for us.
But the second perspective is one that challenges us who serve the People of God, God’s flock.
Are we like the Good Shepherd?
Do we know our sheep, as Jesus knows His sheep? Do we have the smell of sheep from getting down into the mud with them?
Do we seek out the lost sheep, instead of being content with the faithful few? Do we go out into the brambles and offer the lost a way out, a way of hope? Or, do we want a comfortable church?
Are we willing to pick up the sheep and carry them home with tenderness? They’ll be dirty and smelling – and may crap on us.
Finally, are we willing to give our lives for them? This may mean martyrdom – which is a gift that God gives to a few. But then there is the dying that happens every day when people serve others in love, go the extra mile to comfort someone, forgive even their enemies?
Are we like the Good Shepherd or are we hired hands, who are content with our little rituals and minimal duties?
But, don’t worry. Even if we are mere hired hands, the Good Shepherd seeks us out and, with love, brings us back and offers us another chance to love.
The image is taken from the web page of Mount Saviour Monastery, a close up of the statue in their cemetery.