Many of us city dwellers may have only a vague idea of the life and work of shepherds, especially those of olden times, except perhaps from movies. Shepherds tend the sheep by leading them to pastures where there is sufficient grass and water, keeping them from straying, and protecting them from predators like wolves and thieves who would scatter them and catch them for food.
Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd because a good shepherd not only takes care of his sheep but loves them so much that he is willing to lay down his life for them if they are attacked. But a hireling runs away to save his own life from wolves and thieves. The difference is the good shepherd owns his sheep while a hireling does not own the sheep but only works for pay.
This brings us to think: why would a shepherd be willing to give up his own life just to save some or all of his sheep? The difference between the value of a sheep and that of a human being is so great that it would be unthinkable and foolish for a man to surrender his human life for an animal, however loveable it may be.
The difference between God and a human being is even greater than the difference between an animal and a human being. That difference is unimaginably huge. It is infinite.
So why should God even care about us -- only creatures of his -- as to die for us? That is the mystery of His great love for us.
But that is exactly what happened when God the Father sent His Son to take on our human nature in the person of Jesus Christ about 2000 years ago to live on this earth, suffer and die on the cross to save us from our sins. And for what? He wants to bring us to His eternal dwelling place, to be home with Him for all eternity.
The evangelist John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, was so ecstatic about this mystery of God’s plan for us that he exclaims in our second reading: “See what the Father has bestowed on us, that we may be called the children of God.” And to assure us about the truth of this fact, he assures: “Yet so we are.”
John even went to the extent of giving us an idea of what it means to be God’s children: “What we shall be has not yet been revealed. But we do know that when it is revealed we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
What can be more desirable, what can be more beautiful than seeing God as He is? . . . in all His majesty and glory? And without end?
God has appointed for us earthly shepherds whose role is to guide and lead us to heaven, which is our true home.
We have of course our Church shepherds — the clergy: priests and bishops who have responded to the call to devote their whole lives to shepherding God’s people, guiding and leading them to heaven. We need to thank them for being good shepherds and pray that they will continue being so. Unfortunately, there is a small percentage of those who do not prove faithful to their calling, in effect being bad shepherds. We need to pray for them. And we need to pray that God sends His Church more holy and good shepherds.
Our parents are shepherds, too. The mission of parents is to provide for their children’s needs, both material and spiritual. They are supposed to guide them on the right path of life. It is their duty to protect them from harm coming from evil influences. It is the parent’s main responsibility to bring their children to heaven, as the Lord has commanded them.
Statistics show that when Catholic students go to high school or college, many lose their faith due to peer pressure and the influences of ungodly teachers. Presently, the values being taught in public educational institutions, and even some private schools, from grade school to university level have become liberalized and run counter to the values of the Christian faith.
Parents, especially Christian parents, should open their minds to what is going on and take all means to protect their children from influences that will mislead them and cause them to stray away. The responsibility of parents to guide, correct and admonish their children does not end when they leave school or get married. If their children get lost through their negligence and lack of interest, all their efforts to give them a comfortable material life would be in vain if they don’t get to heaven.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep to bring them to His Father’s house — heaven. Are we parents willing to lay down our lives to bring our children to heaven, like our Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd did for us? Or are we going to be satisfied in giving them only the comforts of earthly life and nothing more?
The decision would weigh heavily on our parental shoulders. #
* (Excerpts from my homily for Good Shepherd Sunday, April 25, 2021)