29 April 2012
1 John 3:1-2
Some time ago I was at a wedding and at the meal afterwards, there was a couple, a man and a woman across the table from me. They were both about 40 and they seemed to be quite friendly with each other and when we started talking about various things I remarked that they seemed very good friends. At that they laughed and said. We are indeed, we have been married for 16 years and we really enjoy being married. There was something delightful about their relationship, the way they had such familiarity and mutual understanding.
The gospel today is about that. Using a scene very typical of the life of the people Jesus compares himself to the Good Shepherd, the one who really knows his sheep. He cares for them with great gentleness. He has a great familiarity with them. When I worked in Africa, as an effort to generate funds for our community we started raising sheep and we employed a worker to look after them. He was more than a hired man. He genuinely cared for the sheep. Once he was on vacation for some weeks, and when he came back, he remarked immediately that one or two of the sheep had got wounded. We had hired another man to look after the sheep during the other’s vacation but he never noticed anything wrong. It was quite clear to me that the relationship of the two men with the sheep was very different.
Today Jesus is telling us very simply what kind of relationship he has with the Father and the type of relationship he wants with us. Like the couple in the story he wants an easy familiarity with us. We don’t deny that Jesus is God but it would be sad if we used that as an excuse to avoid the deep friendship with us that he desires so much. If we were honest, where would we put our relationship with Jesus? Would it be high up the list of our relationships / or maybe not.
Once a friend of mine was on a long distance flight and he remarked how friendly the air hostesses were and seemed genuinely concerned for the passengers. As they left the plane the passengers were wished a good time by the hostesses. Ten minutes later my friend happened to greet the same hostesses as they left the plane and they just ignored him. He felt that all their care for the passengers was just part of the job they were given to do but once the job was finished, that ended their concern. Jesus leaves us in no doubt that he is not a hired workman, we know he did give his life for his sheep, reflecting the care, concern and love God our Father has for us.
I suppose just as Jesus, the Good Shepherd on earth mirrors God the Good Shepherd, where have we experienced modern-day good shepherds ourselves – dedicated, loyal, caring people. Maybe parents who spend time with their families, teachers who bring the best out of their pupils, nurses, doctors, who do a little bit extra for their patients, especially when you are vulnerable to show that you are special. These people are so good they wouldn’t do it any other way. They genuinely care for others, far beyond the call of duty.
A priest tells the story of being at the scene of a particularly bad accident. A young motor cyclist had had a horrific smash. It was 3 o’clock in the morning and a nurse on her way home from a dance stopped to help. She knelt in the dirt and the blood and her best efforts at mouth to mouth resuscitation were in vain. Finally she cradled the young lad’s head in her arms and cried and prayed. Her beautiful dress was ruined. The priest said it was a scene he would never forget. For him she was:
– A good nurse
– A Good Shepherd
– A Christ figure.
We all know people like these. People who keep alive the work and example of Jesus the Good Shepherd today, often in very difficult circumstances and not always appreciated.
Today is often referred to as Vocation Sunday. Let us pray not only for vocations to the priesthood and the religious life and for the vocation of the laity, but that above all whatever our calling is, we would show that the example of Jesus the Good Shepherd was not in vain.
“Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd, help us with the help of the Holy Spirit to be Good Shepherds to each other. Amen”
Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA