Blog # 360 The Good Shepherd
The initiative in identifying Jesus as the Good Shepherd was taken by Jesus Himself. (Jn. 10: 11-16). In early Christian art the theme of Jesus as the Good Shepherd was most commonly used.
Living as we do so far removed from an everyday experience of sheep and shepherding we might ask what lesson or value can be ours in our response to the identity of Jesus as shepherd. Chances are not one of us is, ever has been, or will be a shepherd. Most likely many if not all of us have not known any shepherds personally. Yet the theme has been and continues to be a source of grace and inspiration down through the history of the Church.
Jesus compared and contrasted that image with what He referred to as a hired shepherd. The Good Shepherd has a high regard for the sheep, is dedicated to their welfare, and is willing to risk his life for their sake. The hireling works for the pay he receives rather than the good of the sheep. When danger comes the hireling will flee from the scene and leave the sheep to be scattered and killed.
In reflecting upon the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, various thoughts begin to focus for us. The Good Shepherd is dependable, generous, and worthy of trust. In identifying Himself as the Good Shepherd, Jesus is inviting us to see in Him these same qualities.
When and how can we remind ourselves of this invitation, respond to it more frequently, and appreciate its implications more deeply and effectively? The early Christians did this through prayer to Jesus as the Good Shepherd and through drawings and paintings of Him as the Good Shepherd in their homes cemeteries and places of worship. Also, each time we celebrate Mass we celebrate the loving death of our Shepherd. In that Holy Sacrifice He is laying down His life for us!. No greater love has anyone, shepherd or otherwise.
For years now I have been keeping a small picture of the Good Shepherd attached by a magnet to one of my metal files. I have found it a good way of keeping me mindful of who Jesus is, His great love for us, and how close He is to us. If any of you who read my blogs would like to share this practice, I will send one of them and a magnet free of charge to the first hundred requests I receive for one of them, with a deadline of receiving your request being October 15. You can send your request to me by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or surface mail at : 4015 Glenmary Trace, Fairfield, OH 45014-5549.
Here are some questions I have found helpful in formulating my response to Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Aware of my identification and union with Jesus through faith and Baptism, sharing His life and sent by Him as He was sent by the Father with a message and a mission, do I see myself as a Good Shepherd to myself, and to others? What type of person must I be to make it true that I am a Good Shepherd? What attitudes and habits of thought and action should I be cultivating in order for the love of the Good Shepherd to be alive in me?
And here is a prayer to the Good Shepherd: Jesus, Good Shepherd, help us discover more fully what it means to call you our Good Shepherd. You know each of us and you love each of us. Help us to appreciate your love and make it our own as you invite us to do. Then will come the Father's will for us, peace, joy, and Heaven. Praise and thanks to you, our Good Shepherd! Amen!