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Icon of the Good Shepherd

Yesterday’s Gospel, Jn 10:1-10, brought back memories from long ago.  Like 53 years ago when I was 12 years old living in the small village of High Ham, Somerset, England.  My friend, John, a year older than me, lived a few hundred yards down the road.  John and his family were dairy farmers with a fine herd of Holstein cows.  And, they had a large flock of sheep which they raised for the wool.  I spent every moment I could down on John’s farm helping with anything his dad would let me.  I learned to milk and feed cows, deliver calves, shovel manure, cut, bale and pitch hay, drive a tractor and a car, and herd and shear sheep.  

To the best of my recollection, I enjoyed every aspect of it – some more than others.  Perhaps my least favorite was herding the sheep.  I think I preferred shoveling manure to messing with those unruly critters.  Driving the flock from one pasture to another was always a challenge.  If one sheep got a notion to jump through a hedge or over a low spot in a rock wall into someone’s yard, they all followed the leader.  I did not have what it took to herd sheep.  But John, he was the good shepherd.  He had the knack.  When he was herding them down the main road through the village they were perfect darlings.  He loved those fluffy ovines and they loved him.  He treated them gently and kindly, and spoke to them softly.  With John, they were happy sheep. Me, I just wanted them to do what I wanted them to do – go from point A to point B without detouring to points C, D, E and F along the way.  But, they wouldn’t listen to what I had to say.

In the 53 years since then I’ve learned that people can be the same way.  We know who loves us and who doesn’t, who cares for us and who has our best interest at heart.  Just like sheep, we can sense the difference between someone who is loving, caring, and sincere, and someone who is trying to control us for their own purposes.  We become friends with the former and turn our backs on the latter.  

Or not.  Some folks decide they don’t need any help making it through life.  They can do it on their own.  Wander where they will with no concern for anyone else.  They’ll jump the hedge when something spooks them, and poop in someone else’s yard and think nothing of it.  Their actions are driven by fear, or because it feels good, or because it’s convenient, or to simply show they can.  But, they’re never really happy.

Still others let other people lead them to places they shouldn’t go, and they blindly follow. Often these are unhealthy relationships based on false love. Some idolize entertainers, politicians, or athletes thinking happiness will be found if they can be like them.

For my part, since I began to follow Jesus ten years ago, I’ve learned that no one loves and cares for me more than He does.  It’s His voice I listen for each morning as I sit in the solitude and silence of my daily meditation, conversing with Him, asking Him what His will is for me each day.  He is my Good Shepherd.  I know where He is leading me, to heaven, and I want to get there virtuously without detouring and ending up in other places that He doesn’t want me to go.  Why?  Because I hear His voice and follow Him out of love.  It’s where I find true happiness.

To whom do you listen?  Is it the Good Shepherd?  Or is it the harsh and demanding voice of today’s world that invokes anxiety; or the inviting call of pride; or the sexy but illusory whisper of self-pleasure that beckons you?

“Lord Jesus, You are my Good Shepherd.  I find peace and consolation each day knowing that You are watching over me, that You know what is best for me, and that You will lead me there.  All I have to do is listen to and follow You.  Amen.”

(The Good Shepherd was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

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