“I am the good shepherd, says the Lord; I know my sheep, and mine know me.” John 10:14
On Good Shepherd Sunday, we listen to these words: “My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me.” Good shepherds hear the voice of God and go out of their way to identify with their flock.
The Sundays after Easter take up specific themes: How to best announce the Resurrection? Jesus asks: “Do you love me?” How do we tend to the lambs and sheep? In listening to the Lord, how do we find direction and give guidance to others?
Of course, trying to hear God’s voice is no easy matter. Life’s many distractions, or simply listening to another’s voice, have its complications brought on by texting or the sound of mobile phones ringing in a church, a theater, or the classroom.
A friend of mine sent me an announcement from a church in France that cautioned parishioners about disturbing cell phones. It read:
“When you enter this Church, it may be possible to hear the call of God. However, it will be unlikely he will call you on your mobile phone. Thank you for turning off the phones. If you want to talk to God, enter, choose a quiet place and talk to him. If you want to see him, send him a text while driving.”
An ironic and humorous way of saying that to hear God’s voice, we need time reserved for reflection, careful listening, and what’s known in a monastery as “grand silence.” Perhaps, something foreign in our contemporary age.
The New Testament contains 16 references to shepherds — from those star-struck shepherds who announced the news of Jesus’s birth to this very last chapter in John’s gospel.
Contained within this metaphor is an understanding of the precious value of sheep to the economy of early Israel. The long-term care of each lamb added to the area’s potential wealth. These animals were highly valued chiefly for their wool and less so as a source of food. Take note, among the earliest representations of Jesus, found in the Roman catacombs was the image of the Good Shepherd. Art historians tell us that this caring image of the shepherd predates that of Christ on the cross.
Consequently, the shepherd’s caring for and feeding of sheep had significant benefits, and Jesus draws on this particular understanding.
For us, this metaphor only goes so far. We, too, need direction and the ability to value all those precious ones in God’s eyes. Let’s ask ourselves who the shepherds are? I’m talking about those good people who have provided us with direction and guidance on our journey.
A few weeks ago, I was loading bags of grocery items into my car, and I noticed a young dad with three children. He was also loading his car with items that included a set of three-year-old twins and a one-year-old. As you might know, this precious cargo must be seated in secure seats in the second row of the SUV.
Well, this is no easy task because kids are moving objects. From a few feet away, I observed this good shepherd locking the youngest into the center seat and then dealing with the twins carefully separated into the end seats. I waved to the dad, who smiled back at me with a sense of relief. Together with his children, the dad exited the parking lot. They were on their next journey of the day.
Good shepherds, there are many among us. That daughter took her mom to the clinic for cancer treatments. The Little League coach instructs young boys in need of greater confidence at the home plate. A hospital nurse takes time explaining medications and their effect to a concerned and confused patient. Let’s draw on your efforts as tutors to assist youngsters in math and reading skills. We build trust and life-long lessons that provide direction and guidance in all of these relationships.
One good shepherd, Rachel Held Evans, was a writer, journalist, and mother from Nashville. Evans encouraged her readers to recognize and celebrate the sacramental nature of Jesus’ ministry. She writes:
“Our God is in the business of transforming ordinary things into holy things, scraps of food into feasts, and empty purification vessels into fountains of fine wine. This God knows his way around the world, so there’s no need to fear. There’s always enough—taste and see. There’s always and ever enough.”
Confidently, Rachel Evans concludes: “God knows his way around the world. At best the church administers the sacraments by feeding, healing, forgiving, comforting, and welcoming home the people God loves.”
Let us celebrate our mothers and the good shepherds among us on this Mother’s Day.
Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA.