Good Shepherding

Scripture      John 10:27-30


     Jesus said: My sheep hear my voice.

    I know them, and they follow me.

    I give them eternal life,

    and they will never perish.

    No one will snatch them out of my hand.

    What my Father has given me

    is greater than all else,

    and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.

    The Father and I are one.




In this 4th week of Easter we hear the Gospel of John proclaimed wherein Jesus identifies himself as “I am the Good Shepherd.”  As a good shepherd he speaks about his relationship with his flock of sheep. They belong to him, he takes full stewardship of their care. He knows his own sheep by name, he tends them constantly. He guards them carefully, feeding them in green pastures, leading them to safe terrains and protecting them from all natural dangers. True shepherding is a life of total self-giving. Sheep without a shepherd have no defense against the wolves of this world. 

                   "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish"



It seems to me that we, the sheep of his flock, are being invited to experience a new intimacy and tenderness as we come into ever-deeper discipleship with the Risen Jesus. Just as a shepherd doesn’t walk behind the flock beating them with a stick or shouting commands to keep them moving, he walks in front of them, seeking out a safe path to food and water and shelter. The sheep followed him, because they recognized his voice, and they trusted him. When we see this image our minds naturally begin to wander and we realize its personal meaning for us. We are that lamb or sheep who is being carried by Jesus on his shoulders. Such an image is reassuring for us as Jesus is always our support on our journey through life. When we face difficult problems, or trials come our way, or some personal disaster occurs, the presence of Jesus the Good Shepherd reassures us that we are not abandoned. We know that Jesus is supporting and holding us up. I hear anew those strong authoritative words: "No one can or will snatch them out of my hands! This is portrayed very beautifully in the Footprints poem which concludes in this way: “I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?” The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”



Again Psalm 23 reads: “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want. Fresh and green are the pastures where He leads me repose … Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff – they comfort me.’ It is God’s companionship that transforms every situation. The Good Shepherd knows that evil is present in the world but it does not need to be feared. There will be those ‘deathly valleys’ and ‘enemies’ to encounter but there is a new confidence in knowing that our Shepherding God is always present with us. There is a sure hope of protection and steady guidance through the terrors of our scary nights of struggle and suffering. When we, the sheep of his flock, entrust our entire loyalty and solidarity to following the voice of the shepherd, we are deeply comforted. It is precisely in situations of danger and anxiety that we come near our Divine Shepherd and experience the hurt, the harm and the fear subside as we remain cradled in such arms. What a remarkable new orientation to strengthen us as we go forth now and proclaim a new way of Gospel living to our world today!



This relationship between the shepherd and the sheep is so intimate that it is an extension of the relationship between the Father and the Son. We heard the words of Jesus: “My sheep hear my voice and follow me.” The sheep listen to and recognize the voice of their shepherd and that is why they continue to follow him rather than another. It is important for us also to recognize the voice of Jesus as it comes to us in our daily life. If we see ourselves as followers of the Good Shepherd we will tend to be more still in our prayer. We will recognize that unique 'voice' that guides us securely from within the silence of our beings. With time and faithful following, we will become more like the gentle Shepherd who has been shepherding us. We will be gentle in the confidence that God cares for each of us and we will bring that special care to those we encounter. "We love LOVE and let LOVE love through us." (J.P. Medaille, SJ) Our way of doing will flow from our way of being. Good shepherding flows into our individual vocations as parents, grandparents, pastors, counselors, teachers, administrators, etc. Dedication, commitment, sacrifice and vigilance are needed every day. Shepherds are called to love unconditionally.



Jesus as a shepherd shows a deep sense of commitment and responsibility towards his own. Jesus is a leader who is concerned about the other and hence there is a lovely attractiveness that emanates from his presence. Every good shepherd knows that his sheep know him and he knows his own sheep. There is a mutual understanding and love between them. This mutual bond of love and intimacy is often compared to the mutual relationship between Jesus and his Father.  The shepherd knows his sheep and the sheep acknowledges its shepherd. The good shepherd deeply desires that many other sheep  come to identify themselves with this Divine companionship. This in fact is the call of the kingdom of God that there may be "one flock and one shepherd.” In this sense there is a universal invitation proclaimed for all of humanity to be united together with God. What a beckoning God... will you come and follow ... with all your heart?


Carrying Grace            No one will snatch YOU out of my hands.



#4 arletteh 2010-04-25 17:26
(cont.) In their struggles and their nights of terror,they may at first panic;they may think they are lost,but they come,even here, to trust.I come for them,and joyfully put them on my shoulder from wherever I find them,and carry them through storms, rocky, desert lands,to safety,where they will hear my voice again!Nothing will they want-----" "Be still,and know that I am God"---"Be still!"---Do you hear My voice, My beloved ones?Come! I will give you rest.I am your wonderful Shepherd."
#3 arletteh 2010-04-25 17:15
"I know them>" is inserted between They hear My voice" and "They follow Me." "I know them;their coming and their going;their rising and their resting.My hand leads them, before. My hand holds them fast, behind, guiding them. I know them. I knit them together in their mother's womb.My Father has the blueprint of their soul,as he had the blueprint of Mine.I have tasted the heights and depths of human life.They come to know that, as they trust me. I hold the blueprint of their soul up to them, continually.The y hear My voice. They follow Me.,as I lead them to their true, deep selves.They rejoice when they hear My voice. I am their wonderful shepherd.(to be cont.)
#2 Mark Dickinson 2010-04-24 15:24
... in our own lives who are shepherds to us. THANK YOU ROSEMARY!
#1 Mark Dickinson 2010-04-24 15:23
A truly inspiring message, Rosemary. What else can be said? You have captured the meaning completely. I will only add the words of Jean Vanier, written in his book 'Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John':
"Jesus reveals that he is the Good Shepherd. Although the word 'good' is used in most translations, it does not capture the nuances of the original. In Greek, the word is Kalos, which can be translated as 'noble', 'beautiful', 'perfect', 'precious' or even 'wonderful'. So every time I use the the familiar phrase 'good shepherd', please translate this as 'wonderful shepherd' - 'THE' shepherd." ...
Jean Vanier continues: "Shepherding is about carrying for those who are weak, lost and in need. It is about presence,love and support. Shepherds are needed as much today as they were in the time of Jesus, to love people and guide them to greater life."
May we each learn to become shepherds to others .. and may we always give thanks to those people in our own lives who are shepherds to us.

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