We are All Shepherds for One Another
This week we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday! While the imagery can be somewhat lost on today’s believer, there was a good reason why the illustration of a shepherd with his sheep was used so often in biblical times ... it was an illustration people could easily identify within their cultural context. Surely we can build on this biblical image and adapt it to our times taking into consideration our role in being shepherds to and for one another.
Illustrations are most effective when they are understood easily by the culture in which we find ourselves and where God has sent us to minister. Middle eastern cultures understood what shepherding was all about. It was about feeding the lambs and the sheep, bringing them to good pasture lands and fresh water, grooming and clipping them, leading them and teaching them to stay together, going after the wandering lost ones, and protecting the sheep in the field and in the fold.
By virtue of our baptism, we are all shepherds for one another, with Jesus Christ as our Good Shepherd. We are invited first to be loved by the Good Shepherd and then challenged to share that love in caring for each other.
A shepherd feeds his sheep. Jesus feeds us with his Word and the Eucharist which gives us guidance and food for the journey. As shepherds we too are called to feed the lambs and care for the sheep. So many have not heard the Word of God nor partake of his Body and Blood. Our word, example and invitation can inspire our brothers and sisters to be inspired and fed by the Lord.
The shepherd gives the sheep fresh and pure water so that they may live. In baptism we are configured to Christ. As shepherds, filled with the gifts of the Spirit, we are called to lead one another to water regularly. So many have been baptized, but the water has dried up and the impact forgotten. Our fresh and living faith can refresh and restore the grace of baptism in others so that the light of God's written Word can shine through and be evidenced in prayer and living joyfully in the example of Jesus Christ.
A shepherd grooms his sheep and keeps them clean and free of contamination from the bad things in the world. Jesus tells us of his love and generous mercy. As shepherds we are called to share this message of love and mercy with our friends and family. Many feel unloved and alienated from our faith in Jesus and even from one another. Sharing our story can welcome people back to Jesus, our source of love and mercy.
At times sheep must be sheared. This is a useful and profitable process for both the sheep and the shepherd. This is an offering to the Good Shepherd. For the benefit of all, the sheep must be sheared, disciplined, encouraged and rebuked. At times we know we too have gone astray and are in need of shearing to keep us fit for service to the Lord.
As shepherds we too can humbly correct, rebuke and encourage one another— but only with great patience and careful instruction. Our correction can never be judgmental and without compassion, but always attuned to truth and charity.
Leading and Teaching