Fourth Sunday of Easter
One of my seminary classmates has always reacted when the story of the Good Shepherd was read. “I don’t like being compared to sheep!” he says. “They’re dumb and smelly, too!”
I grew up in the city so my experience with sheep is limited. But I do know that shepherding was an important part of the life for the people of Biblical times. It’s the relationship between shepherd and sheep that makes Jesus’ comparison work.
The shepherds of Jesus’ time herded their flocks through wilderness, ready to defend them from attack by wild animals. In a crowded sheepfold at night, shepherds of several flocks herded together could identify their own sheep—and vice versa! Jesus’ listeners would have understood the economic interdependence of shepherd and sheep—a truly good shepherd would value each and every individual in his flock.
The relationship Jesus offers us is one characterized by the dignity and worth he sees in each of us. He knows each of us by name with an intimacy he shares with us from the Father, whom Jesus knows with the intimacy of a Divine Son. And the bottom line: Jesus gives his life for us, his flock.
My classmate and I still chuckle about his reaction to being “herded together” in this Biblical image. But we both agree: We want to be counted among the Lord’s flock!
Sunday reflection by Father Greg Friedman, from St. Anthony Messenger Press, find it on the web at Franciscanmedia.org. Shared with permission.