Shepherding and sheep

Monday, April 18, 2016

 Shepherding and sheep
Easter, Day 23

Yesterday, on the 4th Sunday of Easter we celebrated “shepherding” as a model for Christian leadership.   This was not an easy concept for the Apostles to understand and it took Peter a little while to “get it”.   He was a faithful Jewish person who kept the laws proclaimed his message in the temple where the Jews gathered.  In spite of spending 3 years with Jesus, he was still of the mind that you needed to become a Jew in order to be a follower of Christ.   He was very surprised at where the Spirit was leading him.  In a dream he discovered that he could eat things that were previously thought unclean and therefore enter the homes of and have meals with people who were previously thought “unclean”.  Then, after his preaching when the Holy Spirit came upon those who received his words, he got another insight into the flock he was to shepherd.

The Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World states that ” all people are endowed with a rational soul and are created in God’s image;  they have the same nature and origin and, being redeemed by Christ,  they enjoy the same divine calling and destiny.  Discrimination in basis of human rights on the grounds of “sex, race, color, social conditions, language or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.” (29)

Our Chief Shepherd, Pope Francis models this kind of shepherding with his words and actions day by day and most recently has personally arranged the transportation of some families to safety and has put out a message to the world regarding the human rights of all people. 

From “Augustine and Francis on being a Shepherd” By Tom Palanza, Jr.

Augustine also remarks that he is only a shepherd so long as he is a good shepherd.  Thus, when shepherds fail, they are not shepherds, they are just sheep.  That is not to say that sheep are always failing.  Rather, a sheep can only be a shepherd when they live the life of the One Good Shepherd.  It seems right to ask, then, that if the ordained are still just sheep, how can they possibly live as Christ and be, as priest Matt put it, “icons” of Jesus, shepherds in charge of fellow sheep?
It is Christ who enables this possibility.  For Jesus is not just the one and only Good Shepherd, but he is also the Lamb, the smallest sheep of the flock of God.  It was the smallest sheep, the Lamb, who was made perfect through suffering and was raised up out of the midst of the flock and became the Good Shepherd.  Thus can we sheep be shepherds while still remaining sheep.  It is only so long as the shepherd lives as the lamb that they can remain a shepherd.

Alleluia verse for today
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord;
I know my sheep, and mine know me.

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