On this fourth Sunday of Easter or Good Shepherd Sunday, it reminds me of the story of a priest who instructed his Sacristan to change the Responsorial Psalm on the screen before the Mass. On that day, the response to the Responsorial Psalm was: “The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.” Since the screen was too small for a long response, the priest told the sacristan: “Just write, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd.’ That is enough.” The priest was then busy with other things. Mass started as usual until the part of the Mass where the Responsorial Psalm had to be repeated together. The priest, shocked but amused when he heard the people say: ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, that is enough.’
This might be an honest mistake by the Sacristan but this is a very meaningful declaration of faith. Yes, to know that Jesus is our Shepherd, is more than enough to inspire us to continue living out the demands of our faith.
Traditionally, bishops, priests, religious brothers and sisters are known as the Shepherds in the community of faith because of their involvement in caring for the sick and needy of a particular community. That is why this Sunday, we are also invited to pray for vocations of priesthood and religious life.
During the time of Jesus, the life of the shepherd was one of personal self-giving and sacrifice. The shepherd showed unconditional care and love towards his sheep. His work was that of watchful care and closeness to the flock. In Palestine, the shepherd brought the sheep into the sheep-shelter every night. It was a circular stone wall with an opening gate where the sheep entered. Once the sheep were inside for the night; the shepherd slept in that opening gate all night. The sheep could not get out without stepping over the shepherd’s body nor could anyone get in and harm the sheep without going past the Shepherd.
The shepherd of the flock also grows up with the flock and stays with the same flock all his life. He knows each and every sheep in the flock individually. He calls each one by name and could tell you the personal story of each one of the sheep, when and where it was born, the problems it has had in its life, its personal characteristics etc.
The Good Shepherd is the one who always attends to the individual needs of each sheep. He knows which ones are likely to lag behind after a long walk and he would carry them in his arms. He knows which ones were likely to stray from the flock and he would keep an eye on them when they came to dangerous places. He knows which ones are pregnant and need special food. When attacked by wolves or thieves, he would risk his life and fight to defend his flock.
Having heard these characteristics of the Good Shepherd, who do you think are the shepherds in our lives?
In the family and educational order, the parents, guardians, professors, class instructors, teachers, supervisors, etc. are shepherds. Let’s us take parents as an example: apart from the physical tiredness of carrying and nurturing for our children; how many sleepless nights do we all have thinking of how our children should eat the best food, receive the best medical attention, should study in the best school…… or give them the best of everything that we can give them. The list grows even longer when parents think about their children’s futures.
Today is also ANZAC day. We pray for the soldiers, dedicated men and women who laid down their lives for our safety and served our country in different times of history.
Let us invite ourselves to think of people who could be the Good Shepherds in our lives and pray for them especially this weekend. Also, let us keep priests, religious people and people who are following in Christ’s footsteps of becoming a Good Shepherd.