Acts 4:5-12 • Ps. 23
1 John 3:16-24 • John 10:11-18
A good shepherd is committed to his sheep. He lets his résumé lapse and covets nothing imagined to be richer and greener. He pitches his tent like the Word and digs in his heels like an old Anglo-Catholic priest. He keeps watch over his flock by night, dreams of celestial guides, and remains alert to sinister dangers: the wolf, the false teacher, the false prophet. These days he stands guard against diocesan disseminators of doom, gloom, and death. He thinks of the sheep and the life once given that he should be privileged to guide them. For the shepherd is himself a sheep, guided by the good shepherd of every soul. He leads as one who is led, and teaches as one who is taught. He lives among his flock as one who is ready to die, who is dying every day for them. But dying, he seems to live with lightness and fullness, hopefulness and a wicked joy.
A good shepherd is committed not only to his sheep, at least not only to those who come in and go out at the summoning sound of his voice. The good shepherd looks over the hill not because he wishes for better sheep, but only because he knows there are others who will hear his voice, who will come, who will increase the flock, making it one universal flock under one universal shepherd. The good shepherd gathers the rich and poor, the strong and the weak, those of good repute and those of ill repute. He listens to lecturers and lunatics, a polished Ph.D. and a mumbling teenager. He is almost out of his mind, stretching the boundaries of his personality. He is all things to all people. And yet he is at ease, for he counts his position not a thing to be grasped. The flock he guards and gathers belongs ultimately to the one shepherd of us all.
The good shepherd prays for souls, but cares equally for bodies. He hears a Word which is Verbum caro factum est, and thus does not think to escape the cycle of life and death. In the flesh the shepherd labors, grateful for the strength of legs and arms. He eats his food and drinks his drink with relish, glad to be alive, living as one who is enlivened by life itself. Rooted in his body, he feels compassion learned from his own need and satisfaction. Seeing someone who is hungry, naked, desperate, he cannot close the door of his heart or turn off his twitching nerves. He feels through his own body the suffering of another and thinks, “What can I do?” He turns to his neighbor and says, “What can we do?” If he can help, he does. If he must carry a sheep, he bears its weight with a willing heart. If he can do nothing, he learns the sting of sorrow and resolves not to be hardened.
The good shepherd knows how to work and how to rest. Living under the dome of heaven, baked by the sun, caressed by a sandy wind, he daily learns the feel of his own exhaustion. He welcomes it. The flock secure, he rests on verdant grass adjacent to still waters. He eats and drinks and sleeps, knowing that Sabbath is survival. Resting, he feels the slowness of time; second by second he notes the fulfillment of every need. He is without want and without fear, entrusting himself to the high God who became lowly.
Look It Up
Read Psalm 23. Repetition.
Think About It
If you are responsible for others, then assume your responsibility. Adulthood.