by Fr. Dennis Gonzales
The image of a shepherd tending sheep takes on a powerful meaning that depicts our relationship with God. The shepherd is genuinely interested in his flock.
Let us understand a little bit about sheep by comparing them to a farm animal that is familiar to us (especially in Florida— a cow :-).
Cows are rather confident animals. You can go closer to them, and they are not easily panicked. So you can herd a group of cows. You can stand behind them and scare them with a stick or a loud noise, and they will move in one direction.
Sheep are different. They are easily shaken. If you stand behind a flock and move a stick or clasp your hands, producing a loud noise, they will panic and disperse in different directions. Only a trusted shepherd can mobilize a flock. In other words, sheep cannot be herded. They must be led. Even if a shepherd would pretend to run away, the sheep will overtake him, and surround him, bouncing with great delight.
This image says something important about our relationship with Jesus. He desires a relationship, whose foundation is not fear, but trust. We are also invited to do the same to one another as he does to us.
How can we be a good shepherd?
When Pope Francis visited an orphanage in Manila, he met two children whose parents died because of a brutal accident. Since none of the relatives were willing to commit responsibilities to take them, they were in the orphanage waiting for adoption.
When the older child had an opportunity to talk to the Pope, she asked “Why did God let this happen to us, while covering her face with her hands as she sobbed.
The Pope responds directly to her: “your question almost doesn’t have a reply.” The Pope was visibly moved as he acknowledged that he had seen her tears.
He continued by saying, “Only when we too can cry about the things that you said are we able to come close to replying to that question. There are certain realities in life that we can only see through eyes that are cleansed through our tears.”
The Pope then faced the crowd and said, I invite each one of you to ask yourselves: ‘Have I learned how to weep when we see others suffering, others in their pain?
This is shepherding. You show care and enter into the lives of others, especially when they are lost in the dark valleys of life.
Jesus as a Good Shepherd always claims the sufferings of others as His own. He is always seen offering compassion amid people’s sufferings in several stories of the Gospel. For example, He wept for the pain of his friends during the death of Lazarus. This story shows us a glimpse of how he feels over our grief.
The Prophet Isaiah (53:3) foretells us that the suffering Messiah would be “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”
My friends, amid the noise around us, we are all invited to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd. He leads us to make sure that we will not go astray. He celebrates with us in our moments of joy and weeps with us in times of sorrow. There is a Swedish proverb that says: “Shared joy is a double joy. Shared sorrow is half sorrow.”
Jesus is the Messiah who will rescue us from all the places where we are scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.
Cover photo compliments of Suleman Sahan, PEXELS, https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-herd-of-sheep-2669216/