Meditation: What does the image of a shepherd tell us
about God's care for us? Shepherding was one of the oldest of callings
in Israel, even before farming, since the Chosen People had traveled
from place to place, living in tents, and driving their flocks from one
pasture to another. Looking after sheep was no easy calling. It
required great skill and courage. Herds were often quite large,
thousands or even ten thousands of sheep. The flocks spent a good part
of the year in the open country. Watching over them required a great
deal of attention and care.
Stray sheep must be brought back lest they die
Sheep who strayed from the flock had to be sought out and brought back by the shepherd. Since hyenas, jackals, wolves, and even bear were common and fed on sheep, the shepherds often had to do battle with these wild and dangerous beasts. A shepherd literally had to put his life on the line in defending his sheep. Shepherds took turns watching the sheep at night to ward off any attackers. The sheep and their shepherds continually lived together. Their life was so intimately bound together that individual sheep, even when mixed with other flocks, could recognize the voice of their own shepherd and would come immediately when called by name.
God himself leads us like a good shepherd
The Old Testament often spoke of God as shepherd of his people, Israel. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want (Psalm 23:1). Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! (Psalm 80:1) We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture (Psalm 100:3). The Messiah is also pictured as the shepherd of God's people: He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms (Isaiah 40:11).
Jesus told his disciples that he was the Good Shepherd who was
willing to lay down his life for his sheep (Matthew 18:12, Luke 15:4,
John 10). When he saw the multitude of people in need of protection and
care, he was moved to respond with compassionate concern. His love was
a personal love for each and every person who came to him in need.
Jesus is the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls
Peter the apostle called Jesus the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (1 Peter 2:25). Do you know the peace and security of a life freely submitted to Jesus, the Good Shepherd? In the person of the Lord Jesus we see the unceasing vigilance and patience of God's love. In our battle against sin and evil, Jesus is ever ready to give us help, strength, and refuge. Do you trust in his grace and help at all times?
"Lord Jesus, you guard and protect us from all evil. Help me to stand firm in your word and to trust in your help in all circumstances. May I always find rest and refuge in the shelter of your presence."
This reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager, whose website is located at: http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/