The shepherd calls his own sheep by name. (John 10:3)
"I tell you most solemnly, I am the gate of the sheepfold. All others who have come are thieves and brigands; but the sheep took no notice of them. I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe: he will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full."
Good Shepherd Sunday often brings bucolic scenes to mind. Picture a well-groomed shepherd, crook in hand, seated peacefully in lush, green pastures, surrounded by docile sheep. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?
But such an image falls short on two counts. First, shepherd and flock are often dirty and decidedly not peaceful. Second, Jesus called himself a “shepherd” as a rebuke to the Jewish leaders who had just rejected him and cast out a man he had cured of blindness. A true shepherd, Jesus told them, knows his sheep well and leads them with care. And Jesus, the good shepherd, goes so far that he “lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
We can read Jesus’ words here as a course correction for his opponents, but we can learn something for ourselves as well. For we are all shepherds for God’s people in one way or another. We are all called to care for his people by following in Jesus’ footsteps. Our “flock” may include our children, our parents, or our catechism class. We may be quiet shepherds welcoming a new family at church or mentoring a coworker. But no matter who is in our flock, we need to remember that the sheep belong to Jesus and not to us. He treasures each one of them and wants us to reflect his own love and self-sacrifice.
We surely are fortunate to belong to the sheepfold of Christ—His Church. We surely are blessed to have the Son of God as our Shepherd, who came among us in order to lead us to heaven. Do we fully appreciate our privileged position? Do we always live up to our heavenly vocation? We know His voice, we know what He asks of us, but do we always listen to that voice, do we always do what He asks of us?
So ask yourself, “How well do I know my sheep? Do I know the names of my coworkers or fellow parishioners? Do I know the challenges my loved ones are facing?” Sometimes we are so busy with our own affairs that we overlook the hurt, weariness, or fear in someone right next to us. But following Jesus’ example, we can set aside our concerns, “call them by name,” and listen to their needs. Perhaps we can even lead them to a place of peace. That’s one small way to be a shepherd for God’s sheep.
Almighty ever-living God, lead us to a share in the joys of heaven, so that the humble flock may reach where the brave Shepherd has gone before.