By Fr. Frank J. Timar, MSC
A picture of Jesus carrying a lost sheep back to the fold is a favorite of mine. Jesus must have liked it too, because He called Himself the Good Shepherd. A good shepherd protects his flock, which is why Jesus warns us about thieves and bandits. In some ways, things haven’t changed much since the first century. Our world is still full of greed and deceit. We see it daily on TV and read about it in our daily newspapers and we hear it on our streets. The world is not always the safe place we’d like it to be.Perhaps we used to think we were in control, that no one could hurt us if we did not let them, and that no problem is so great that we couldn’t solve it. But most of us do not believe that anymore. We do not feel secure, not even in our own little world. We are vulnerable because of our own sins and failures and the recurring temptations of every day. And we are also vulnerable because of the terrorists that are springing up all over the world. All of us are hungry for love and compassion, yet the world is torn apart by hatred, anger and rage. The human condition remains as messy and chaotic as a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Thieves and bandits lie in wait at every bend, ready to snatch heart and soul.
Jesus gives another interesting picture of Himself when He says He is “the gate for the sheep.” Shepherds of His day would place their own bodies across the narrow opening of the sheep enclosure during times of danger, risking their lives for the sake of their flock. And Jesus saved us by giving His life for us.
We can easily lose our way and our sense of who we are and where we are going. That’s when we are most vulnerable to the “thieves and bandits” of the world. The human heart is often filled with hatred, anger and violence. That’s where the battles in our lives really begin. And we know all of us are capable of inflicting hurt.
The Lord is our compass or GPS to guide us on our journey to the Father. We must let Jesus take us where He wants us to go. We would do well to listen to the commanding voice of the Good Shepherd and become good shepherds to one another. Jesus knew His sheep, and His sheep knew Him. What about us? Are we aware of the needy around us, do we hear their cry for help and do we carry those who are lost to safety?