Today in our Scripture readings we have a familiar image, God as the shepherd of His flock. In the reading from the prophet Jeremiah God warns those who would harm the flock, and promises to gather the scattered sheep and appoint shepherds to care for them. In the Gospel, Jesus recognizes the crowd as “sheep without a shepherd’ and is moved to begin teaching them.
The metaphor of the shepherd and the sheep captures our imagination to this day, but it may be helpful to remember that for peoples in the Hebrew Scriptures and for Jesus and His contemporaries it was not just a bucolic image. These were not the large fluffy sheep that dot the green hills of my homeland, or the black-faced beauties who graze in the meadow of our lovely Mission Ranch. They were scrabbly desert sheep, able to survive on the meagerest of rations. Their wool and meat and milk meant the difference between life and death for those who cared for them.
Anyone who cares for animals knows what a chore it can be. Whatever else is going on in your life, the animals need food and water and shelter at a minimum, and that is when everything is going well. It is a task that requires devotion and daily attention, kind of like being the pastor of large and historic parish! All joking aside, the image of the shepherd is apt for those of us called to consecrated life because it expresses the level of commitment required to be a shepherd to God’s people.
It is not only bishops. priests and pastors that God appoints as shepherds. We all take our turn as sheep in need of care and compassion, and shepherds, being the hands and heart of our loving God in the world. This week I invite you to join me in thanking those who have shepherded us in ways large and small, and in asking God to help us be good shepherds in His image.
I wish you and your loved ones continued blessings of good health, new hope and great peace,
Please take a moment to read our Carmel Mission Weekly Bulletin.