John 10: 11-18
"I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the Good Shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father."
The Jews knew exactly what the Lord was saying when He first mentioned these words over 2,000 years ago. The Jewish shepherds were a heroic lot. They would literally put their lives on the line for their sheep. Each shepherd would own about 100 sheep. They had a close bond with their sheep. The sheep knew only their shepherd and his voice alone. They would not follow anyone else. In the nightwatch, shepherds would combine their flocks into one area, surrounded by a stone wall. Then, each shepherd took turns watching throughout the night. There was not a gate to these fenced in areas. The shepherd was literally the gate. He would set his body to block the opening, so that no sheep would escape, nor would any wild animal come in. So, the shepherd had to stand guard and make sure the wolves would not come in. This is why it was a dangerous job, the nightwatch. Some probably lost their lives protecting their sheep.
When the morning came, and the shepherds would come to collect their sheep for grazing, they called their sheep, and only those belonging to that shepherd would come to him. There was no fear of losing sheep, because each knew their own.
The Lord Jesus' words in today's Gospel is His proclamation for His love for each one of us. We share an intimacy with the Lord. He knows us. He guards us and guides us. Are we following Him as good sheep? Or do we act like the bad ones, and go off into the wilderness and get lost? And then, instead of returning to Him quickly, or setting out to look for Him, we stay in our dark places and pout and cry? It doesn't matter what we do, because He always comes around searching for us, never giving up on us. WE are so fortunate to have such a God that loves as He loves!
I tend to whine and pout and get depressed about the life I'm living today. I had dreams, desires to become consecrated to Jesus in the religious life. I wanted to be a Dominican Sister. In the end, I decided to return home from the convent, to care for my ailing mother, and my disabled brother. My mother died shortly after my return. This devastated me. And my poor brother is sinking deeper into his own destructive behavior and declining mental health. Instead of my care and concern, I find myself aggravated by him, and his lack of appreciation. This sounds cruel of me, but I can't help it sometimes. I just feel sorry for myself. I find myself asking, "Is this all there is?" I complain about my job, my lack of friends, my lack of time for myself, my lack of privacy, my lack of my own place, my own dreams. My lack of fulfilment.
I take these complaints to my spiritual director all the time. I am surprised he doesn't grow weary of me. Two weeks ago, he told me I needed to rejuvenate my relationship with the Holy Spirit. He suggested a novena. I decided on this one: http://www.catholicdoors.com/prayers/novenas/p00012.htm
I prayed this novena. And as the week continued, I found myself thinking of thoughts that made my life make more sense. I found myself ashamed of my complaints. I found myself willlingly doing more for my brother, and having time, not for myself, but for God. For prayer. For daily Mass. For time to be alone with God. My mind seemed to open up and see things more clearly. And today, at Mass, I found tears streaming down my face, because the Lord awoke in me a point of view I had not had of myself. I found Him telling me, that I too, am a good shepherd, in that I have laid my life aside first for my mother, and now for my brother. I found the Lord telling me during Mass, that I was actively participating in the life He had chosen for me. I was to be an imitation, a reflection of the Love of the Good Shepherd.
I felt as if all this came to me by the Power of the Holy Spirit. He never does things too quietly in my life! It's always so dramatic! :)
I am not sharing this to glorify myself. I am sharing it for the glory of God! Anyone reading this, I want you to reflect and see if you are a living reflection of the Good Shepherd. WE all can become "good shepherds" in our own lives.
Pope Benedict XVI also shares in this belief, that we all can become "good shepherds." Here is a beautiful piece that I read in my Magnificat today, and which seemed to confirm what the Lord was telling me during Mass:
"Saint Peter, whom the Risen Lord charged to tend his sheep, to become a shepherd with him and for him, described Jesus as the "archipoimen"-"Chief Shepherd" (see 1 Pt 5:4), and by this he meant that it is only possible to be a shepherd of the flock of Jesus Christ through him and in very close communion with him. The Lord tells us three things about the true shepherd: he gives his own life for his sheep; he knows them and they know him; he is at the service of unity. The shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The mystery of the cross is at the center of Jesus' service as a shepherd: it is the great service that he renders to all of us. He gives himself and not only in a distant past. In the Holy Eucharist he does so every day...Day after day it is necessary to learn that I do not possess my life for myself. Day by day I must learn to abandon myself; to keep myself available for whatever he, the Lord, needs of me at a given moment, even if other things seem more appealing and more important to me: it means giving life, not taking it. It is in this very way that we experience freedom: freedom from ourselves, the vastness of being. In this very way, by being useful, in being a person whom the world needs, our life becomes important and beautiful. Only those who give up their own life find it. Let us entrust ourselves to Jesus the True Shepherd."