“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up 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 up again. I have received this command from my Father.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
While on a recent retreat at Montreal’s Villa Saint-Martin, I conceded to my spiritual advisor that I all-too-often fail to recognize Christ’s presence with me. Sure, I reach out when I need him, but what about those times when I don’t feel as if I ‘need’ him? Today’s Gospel reminds me of Christ’s everyday presence, especially when I follow the voices of strangers or fall victim to the everyday trappings of society.
I remember an episode of The Flintstones I watched as a child in which Fred weighed a tough decision. Agonizing over this decision, there appeared on one shoulder a haloed-angelic Fred (representing his super-ego) and on the other a horned-devilish Fred (representing the id). The choice pitted altruism versus selfishness.
Each day we have these same choices – shaped by our needs, desires, life purpose and, yes, our faith. We weigh the good and the evil. In time, we needn’t undergo the lengthy back and forth with our id and super-ego, using instead the foundation molded by important figures of our lives. Our values allow us to make swift decisions, ‘thinking Ignatian,’ if you will.
But what if we make a bad decision and follow the “hired man, who is not a shepherd, and whose sheep are not his own?” We often do this, venturing off course for a quick fix – distancing ourselves from our life mission, our values. Who guides us when we follow the wrong path, when we follow the wolf in sheep’s clothing?
When false promises and the noise of society lead us astray, Christ shepherds us back, calling us each by name toward the path of righteousness. “We hear his voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
As we head back to the herd, I ask the same question I asked up in Montreal, “When did you get here?” God’s reply, “I’ve been here all along.”
Do not be afraid I am with you.
I have called you each by name.
Come and follow me,
I will lead you home;
I love you and you are mine.
—Excerpt of “You Are Mine” by David Haas, © 1991 GIA PublicationsPlease share the Good Word with your friends!