Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

The good shepherd

GUIDING LIGHT - Rev. Fr. Benjamin Sim, S.J. - The Freeman

Sheep and shepherds are not familiar sights to us, who live in the cities. Perhaps most of us have not even seen a live sheep, except in the zoo. Yet, to the people listening to Jesus, the example of the relationship between the shepherd and his sheep was the most eloquent way of describing God’s faithful and self-sacrificing love for us – His sheep.

Sheep depend almost entirely on the care and attention of the shepherd to keep them safe. Without it they wander away from the fold and place themselves in danger. A good shepherd knows each sheep by name, and willingly sacrifices much of himself for the sake of his fold.

The book “Jesus and His Times” of Reader’s Digest gives a good description of the relationship between the shepherd and his sheep. Shepherds usually herd their flock into a penat night to protect them from wild animals and thieves. If they were near the village, they would herd them into a common village pen. If they were far from the village, they would herd them into a field pen, or sometimes a cave.

In today’s Gospel Jesus refers to both kinds of pens. In the first half of the Gospel, he alludes to the common village pen. Specifically, he refers to the early morning, when the shepherd came to the village pen to get his flock and lead it out to pasture for the day. Jesus says: “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him; the sheep hears his voice as he calls his own sheep by name, and he leads them out. When he has brought them out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice.” (John 10:2-4)

In the second half of the Gospel reading, Jesus alludes to the field pen. Specifically, he refers to the narrow opening in the pen through which the sheep pass. He says,“I am the gate for the sheep… Whoever comes in by me will be saved; he will come in and go out and find pasture.” (John 10:7-9)

The field penconsists of a circular stonewall about four feet high with an opening in it. The shepherd would herd his flock into the pen each night. Then he would lie would lie down across the narrow entrance. No sheep could leave the pen, and no wild animal could enter it, without stepping on his body.

Two things stand out in this passage. The first thingis the close bond that developed between the shepherd and his sheep. Most flocks of sheep were kept for wool. This meant that a shepherd was with his flock 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Thesecond thingthat stands out is the deep dedication of the shepherd to his sheep. It extends even to risking his life for them. A shepherd must be a deeply caring person.

There’s an old Jewish legend that explains why god chose Moses over all the other people on earth to shepherd his flock, Israel. One day Moses was shepherding some sheep that belonged to his father-in-law, Jethro. Suddenly he spotted a lamb darting off through the underbrush. Moses dropped everything and followed it lest it be killed by a wild animal or become lost. He finally caught up with the lamb at a tiny stream, where it began to drink feverishly. When it had finished, Moses picked it up in his arms saying, “Little one, I didn’t know you ran away because you were so thirsty. Your tiny legs must be tired.” With that, he placed the lamb on his shoulders and carried it back to the flock.

When God saw how caring Moses was, he said to himself, “At last, I’ve found the special person I have been searching for. I will make Moses the shepherd of my people Israel.” It was this kind of person Jesus was: gentle and caring about each member of His flock.

To his Father Jesus prayed: “As long as I was with them, I guarded them with your name which you gave me. I kept careful watch, and not one of them was lost.”(John17:12) Against this background we are able to appreciate better what Jesus has in mind when he says, “I am the good Shepherd.” Jesus is saying that his relationship and dedication to us is as close as the shepherd’s to his sheep.

Like the shepherd, Jesus is with us – 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. “I will be with you always, [not just once in awhile; not just often, but always] to the end of time,”Jesus told his followers. However, the sad thing is – if there is anything that is good, we’re bound to find imitations, fakes – be it jewelry or garments, or watches, whatever. Since time immemorial there have been quack doctors competing with real doctors, counterfeit money circulating with genuine money, fake heroes, fake lovers, fake husbands, and fake wives, fake priests. For beggars, who truly need help, there are syndicated fakes.We read of scams here and there, everyday victimizing innocent people.

And take a look at our politics. We hear some of our politicians promising this and that during every election time. Before election time all the candidates seem to be saints, who profess to have the interest of the people at heart. What happens after the election? The interest of the people is forgotten. The only concern of some of these politicians now is money, power, and how to exploit the people, or how to make political mileage, and grandstanding.

This kind of people, and even some religious leaders, who bring intrigues and politics in the bad sense into the Church are the thieves and robbers Jesus talked about. They are fake public servants, fake shepherds. They do not care for the people whose interest they vowed to protect.

In contrast to these fake public servants, there are real ones. Unfortunately, they are not very many. But you do meet them once in a while. They rarely travel in extravagant style; they don’t build mansions for themselves or for their mistresses. They don’t use their position to amass great wealth. They have the interest of the ordinary people at heart. They are close to the people. They are easy to approach. They listen to the people. They are like Jesus and the shepherds – caring for their flock.

It is very important for us to distinguish the real from the fake, and learn to accept and support the real and to reject the fakes come election time.

Now, what message can we draw for ourselves from today’s Gospel? The message is clear and simple: We must be in reality what we claim to be – not fakes, forgers, or counterfeiters. On Easter Vigil we have renewed our baptismal vowsand publicly proclaimed ourselves Christians. We professed to renounce sin and henceforth to love God and neighbor. That is what we claimed we would do, and that is what we must do if we are to deserve the beautiful name “Christians.” We can choose to be fake members of the Church, entering the fold of Christ by climbing over the wall like thieves and robbers, or we can choose to enter by the door and become like Christ, loving shepherds of our brothers and sisters. What will it be?

Jesus knows each of us in a deep personal way. He knows which of us has a weak faith, which of us is likely to become discouraged, and which of us is prone to stray from the flock. Jesus never deserts us. He is always there to help us. And should we stray from the flock, Jesus will leave the 99 sheep and go in search of us.

What God said to his chosen people through the prophet Isaiah, Jesus says to each one of us personally: “Do not be afraid… I have called you by name… You are precious in my eyes…Do not be afraid – I am with you!”(Isaiah 43: 1-4)

vuukle comment











  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with