Near the end of last Sunday’s Gospel Jesus asked Peter three times “Do love me.” Each time that Peter answered, Jesus responded by saying either “Feed my sheep,” or “Tend my lambs,” and finally by saying. “Follow me.” He was calling Peter to follow Him out of a deep profound love and to lead His people in the same way that Jesus had done while He was on the earth. This call of Jesus to Peter very nicely sets the stage for us this week, on this Good Shepherd Sunday, to reflect upon the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd that Jesus gives us the metaphor of the relationship that exists between Him and us
In Jesus’ time, sheep were the people’s main source of meat, milk and cheese. They provided wool for clothing and were used for sacrifice in their liturgy.
The relationship of a shepherd to his sheep, resembles that of a mother to her several small children. Just as toddlers depend on their mother’s care, the sheep depend on the care of their shepherd, and the shepherd, who usually, had dozens of sheep, is kept busy all hours of every day.
Each night, a number of shepherds would come together with their sheep and put them in a common pen. As they slept one shepherd would stay awake to guard the sheep. In the morning, each shepherd would call out for his own sheep to follow him to pasture. The sheep knew the voice of their own shepherd and would follow only his voice when they were called. They would ignore the calls of the other shepherds. Remember, Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me.
We may not like to admit this, but we are like sheep. We need God’s constant care at all times and not just when we are aware of our great need for Him
Meanwhile, we live in a society in which it seems like everyone is trying to get our attention. We are constantly bombarded with commercials on radio, social media, TV etc. as well with all kinds of signs, posters and billboards all over highways, streets and buildings trying to catch our eyes and ears. Sometimes, we have a tendency to simply follow the latest message we’ve heard, or, because we hear so many, we might just follow the crowd.
But, if we want to follow Jesus, we have to be able to hear and to recognize His voice, from among the many others. We have to make a conscious effort to shut out all kinds of noise so that so that we can listen to Him. If we don’t, we can easily lose touch with Him. We need to take time to be quiet, to be still, and to pray, so that we can stay in touch with our Good Shepherd.
Our Lord does not want to lose any of us. He wants us to be with Him forever. He leads us through the Mass. He speaks to us in the Scriptures and feeds us with His own body and blood. Sheep may not be the most intelligent of creatures, but they are smart enough to know that they need their shepherd and that they need to recognize his voice. May we also be intelligent enough to know that we need Jesus and smart enough to recognize His voice so that He might lead us to the eternal pasture of Heaven.