Yesterday was Good Shepherd Sunday. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He is the gate to the sheep fold; His contemporaries would have known what he meant.
As a boy I remember seeing shepherds take their sheep or goats out to pasture. The number of animals involved was quite different from the numbers in the average Australian sheep farm or station. In Australia, mobs of sheep are large in number, sometimes hundreds, if not thousands. The numbers I used to see in flocks and herds of my childhood in Malta were very much smaller. In the times of Jesus, it was the same.
Animals have their own personalities, and each has their different behaviour habits. The shepherd would take his sheep to a holding station for the night where the sheep from a number of flocks were kept safe from wild animals and thieves till daybreak. The shepherds would come in the morning to take the sheep out to pasture and he would call them by name, and they would follow, knowing that the shepherd would keep them safe as well as lead them out to pasture. There was a trusting relationship. The sheep were individually known and had names. It was not a one size fits all!
It is the same with us and Jesus. He knows us intimately. It is not a one size fits all. Jesus keeps us safe from being led astray by our passions, and other things. He gives us real nourishment. Jesus is still our ‘shepherd’, our guide today. When we listen to the voice of Jesus we are led to real nourishment and to where we can flourish.
There are other influences impinging upon us that can lead us astray. Jesus is our Way, Truth and Life. He is the best guide and teacher that we can have. There is much confusion of values in our times made readily available in so many new ways. Opinions regarding morals, ethical issues, the way we treat each other, questions of inclusion and other issues can vary so much from those of Jesus and the Christian community.
The Church community, the community of all the baptised, is the ‘mystical’ body of Christ. This community continues to keep alive the memory of Jesus and His values. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit we are called to reflect on the challenges of today in the light of the Gospel, the values of Jesus, and the movement of the Holy Spirit.
There are high Christian ideals and we are all called to aspire to them. However, God knows our realities, it is not one size fits all! He meets us where we are and helps us to get unstuck and to keep growing.
We are called to go to Jesus for guidance in our decision making and discernment. We meet Jesus in personal prayer, in the scriptures, in the sacraments and in each other. We also meet Him in the spirit inspired wisdom of the community of Faith, the body of Christ, our Church family.
God Bless you today.
Bishop of Darwin