Jesus said: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Despite living in this beautiful rural setting, and particularly in the light of all that has happened in the last year, many of us struggle to understand what it means to be a sheep cared for by a good shepherd.
For many, the last year has felt like a journey through the densest of fogs, but … no matter how dense the fog … Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is waiting to carry us to the brightest of homes in his own loving arms.
In a world that often feels ‘aggressively’ secular, it is not uncommon for us to feel separated from God. But, even when the flock is scattered by the chances and changes of this world, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is still there to protect his flock.
As human beings we have a problem, of course … We struggle to remember where we fit into the relationship with our Good Shepherd. We forget that we are the sheep, and that it is Jesus who is the shepherd.
Too often we lose sight of that … we become over confident … we assume that we can take on the role of shepherd … we believe that we can replace God’s wisdom and love with our own!
One of the biggest problems in modern society is anxiety.
We are all driven by a Worry Machine …
- we struggle with perspective …
- we have moments of feeling overwhelmed with feelings of foreboding and dread …
- we struggle with balancing the demands that crowd in upon us at every turn.
But, however powerful those feelings of anxiety may be, there is an answer, an answer that is contained in today’s Gospel reading … Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
In America you sometimes see a road sign that says Objects are closer than they appear. This enigmatic sign is intended to invoke a greater sense of caution in the driver.
From a Christian perspective, these words invite us to consider that … He (that is, Jesus) may be closer than we think he is!
When we look in the rear view mirror of life we often see a distorted image that convinces us that all those sources of anxiety are closer than they appear. The resulting increased anxiety does nothing other than distance us from God.
When we spend our time wallowing in anxiety and worry we are doubting God’s ability, God’s grace – even God’s presence. We are, in fact, breaking the First Commandment because we are not putting God before anything and everything else in our lives. We are implicitly suggesting that God is not capable of knowing … and, worse still, that he does not care!
Historically, sheep pens have been found on lonely hillsides. When the storms are raging, the sheep huddle together in the knowledge that the shepherd is keeping them safe.
In today’s gospel, Jesus makes it clear that we are the sheep of his sheepfold … citizens of his kingdom.
He also makes it clear that the lazy, self-interested, care-less shepherd is never on duty!
Jesus is the Good Shepherd – the Good Shepherd who has laid down his life for the sheep.
Only three weeks’ ago we travelled through the reality of that sacrifice; today we recall that sacrifice and its glorious outcome.
Today we are called to remember and celebrate … and to trust …
- to trust in Jesus’ perfect love
- to trust in Jesus’ loving embrace
- to trust in Jesus’ constant and shielding presence.
Our role in all this is to remain focused on God, setting aside self and believing that God will shield us, no matter how fierce the storm. Amen.