Thank you for your prayers for the Salvatorian candidates and me during our last weekend in Racine for 2018. The rainy weather meant no walk along the lake (I had some nice naps instead), but the sessions were good.
This fourth Sunday of Easter is called Good Shepherd Sunday, because of our selection from the Gospel of John: Jesus’ declaration that He is the Good Shepherd.
We have a tendency to focus on the Good Shepherd, while there are two other “characters” in this story: the wolf and the hired hand. The wolf represents those who harm others, those who are candidates for prison because they hurt others either physically or by taking things from them. As a general rule, those of us who are active in practicing our faith are not wolves: we don’t want to harm anyone; we try to follow the ten commandments and stay on the right side of the law.
The challenge for us might be the hired hand: he has the responsibility for the sheep, but his own interests come first. He will not harm the sheep, but his own safety and comfort come before the welfare of the sheep. As opposed to the Good Shepherd, who loves His sheep and gives His life for the sheep, there is no way the hired hand would do that.
The Good Shepherd has told us that, if we want to follow Him, we must have concern for His sheep. In other words, we must be the Good Shepherd for Jesus’ sheep whom He identifies especially as the most vulnerable, the poor, the stranger, the foreigner, and the forgotten. This is a big challenge, a bigger challenge than not hurting others. It means we have to be concerned and do something for those in need, that we can’t be concerned only for the comfort and safety of ourselves and our families. It means we can’t buy into our consumeristic society that says more is better, when others don’t have the basic necessities of life.
This is a challenge that it is more comfortable to ignore, as we focus instead on how good we are doing at not being wolves. But when we do, we are acting as the hired hand.
It is an ongoing life struggle to grow in our role as the Good Shepherd. I invite us to reflect this week: am I more a hired hand or a Good Shepherd? Am I growing in my ability to be a Good Shepherd to others? How can I do better? And let us support each other in prayer
-- Paul James Portland, SDS