Dear One and All,
A teacher’s role is to guide others from the unknown to the known. Jesus was a brilliant teacher and His listeners would all have been familiar with the unique relationship which existed between a shepherd and his sheep.
A few years ago, I spent some time ministering in the Holy Land and while there, frequently drove English speaking Pilgrims around in a mini bus, visiting different Religious Sites. On one occasion, we visited the Shepherd’s Cave and as we got down from the bus, a Shepherd appeared over the brow of a hill, leading a dozen or more sheep. They were a bit different to our sheep as they didn’t have as much wool on them as our Merinos – and they had black snouts. We all thought ‘What a great picture this would make to take home’, so we took our snaps and as we began to move towards the Cave, the Shepherd came toward us smiling. Suddenly, he began to shout and carry on, waving his crook at us, and yelling ‘Shekel, Shekel!’ He wanted money, but we only had American Dollars, and he could see that we weren’t going to pay him. So I said, ‘We’d better get back to the Bus’. We ran for our lives and got into the Bus, and here he was, banging Staff stick on the windows, shouting words we didn’t understand and probably that was a good idea.
But back to the story! A good shepherd in Our Lord’s time knew every one of his sheep by name, as we might our pet cat or dog, calling them by name. At most a shepherd would have had about twelve to fifteen sheep. However, the shepherd will go to extreme lengths, and will stand with his sheep all day in the scorching heat, and at night, he will sleep across the entrance to the cave to ensure their safety.
For us here in Australia, and in other places in the world that graze sheep; there are hundreds of them if not thousands of sheep on a Property, or Station as we call them in Australia. I remember my dear old Uncle Harold who used to herd sheep and transport them in huge trucks to take them to slaughter, he had one name for every one of them…..but I can’t tell you what it was because it would take this realhomilie out of a G rating into something else……..
Notice in the Gospels, we hear that the Shepherd leads his sheep … he never drives them. He simply walks ahead, and they listen to his voice, and follow him wherever he goes. Sheep also express their loyalty to their shepherd in many very beautiful ways, somewhat like our pets do to us at home. On the other hand, goats have to be driven … they won’t follow their goat-herd. It’s interesting to hear Jesus using the shepherd separating the sheep from the goats to describe the participants in the final judgment. In other words, separating those who followed, from those who needed to be driven. Interesting thought to ponder, eh?
One of the great scandals in history is the extent to which the Body of Christ has been so splintered. While a number of groups claim Christ as their shepherd, many deny the same right to those who do not walk in their way. But there is hope in the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel, where He declares that someday, there will be one fold, and one shepherd. But this can happen only when we stress the need for unity … not necessarily conformity. What Jesus is saying is that we must listen, and be open to others – Christians and non Christians alike – just as we would welcome a guest in our home.
In our Eucharist this weekend, let us pray that we may devote quality time to being attentive to the voice of our Good Shepherd, Christ the Lord, in prayer … that we may put into action the stirrings of ‘response’ from the Holy Spirit, to be Christ’s living Word now, and always.
Let us give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His love has no end.
God Bless you and your families and may we never forget each other in prayer.