By Fr. Frank Timar, M.S.C.
One of my favorite pictures of Jesus is the picture of the Good Shepherd carrying the lost sheep back to the fold. The “why” is not hard to explain. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do as a Missionary of the Sacred Heart, what I felt called to do, that is to do what Jesus did, to reach out to the lost and to those searching for meaning in their lives.
The first thing Jesus did, when He went public, was to recruit a small but diverse group of men and then began molding them into a team. They shared almost every waking hour for the better part of three years. Those days together were anything but smooth and harmonious. Often the disciples misunderstood Jesus, and sometimes He became frustrated with them. But the main thing is they remained together.
Over time, and as they shared experiences, they became a team. At the Last Supper the night before He was to suffer and die, Jesus called them friends even though He knew Judas would betray Him and Peter would deny he even knew Jesus, and, except for John, the others abandoned Him. He knew them well and was also able to say about them, “I know My sheep, and My sheep know Me.” In spite of their weaknesses, He loved them, and He trusted and respected them as individuals. They were His friends.
No one deserved the title of Good Shepherd more than Jesus for He did lay down His life for His friends. What’s even more amazing is He died for His foes. His first concern was not for His own welfare, but for theirs. The commitment that Jesus made to His disciples was the kind that money can’t buy. It was motivated by love. And no sacrifice was too great.
We are the present day disciples of Jesus, and He calls us His friends. As followers of Jesus, we are challenged to be like Him. What Jesus wants of us is to be good shepherds to one another. Taking all this into account, how do we measure up? Some of us are so wrapped up in ourselves that we seldom see the needs of others. Perhaps, we are too concerned with our own struggles, with our own burdens, with our desires, and as a result, we hardly ever reflect on the struggles other people have, or the difficulties they face and the loads they carry. Jesus, the Good Shepherd gave His very life. How often do we sacrifice ourselves for the sake of someone else? How often are we willing to place the needs of others above our own? It’s so easy to dwell on our own concerns, and have no eyes for the needs of others.
Jesus looked at each person as someone filled with possibilities, waiting to be developed. No one ever held a higher view of people than He did. Because of this, He treated every person with respect, even with reverence.
Unfortunately, not all of us Christians look at others with the same kind of insight. Most of what a person is lies buried deep with that person, where human eyes can never penetrate. It is sheer folly to think we know all there is to know about a person. We don’t even know ourselves. To get to know one another could take a lifetime. There is always a price to pay for every rich relationship, and part of that price is self-sacrifice, putting the needs of others above our own. It cost Jesus His very life, and He paid it willingly. Now it’s our turn!