Homily April 26, 2015 4th Sunday of Easter
What is a shepherd? As we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday. I wonder if we fully understand what a shepherd was and what he did. Today after all, our familiarity with farm animals is to go to market and purchase cuts of meat without any real idea of how they got there. We are really no longer an agrarian society. In Jesus time and for centuries before, a shepherd lived and slept in the fields and wilds watching and protecting and doing whatever he needs to keep his sheep safe from man or beasts who had ill intent. The odor of such living with sheep and going unbathed made the shepherds somewhat outcasts. They lived off the land and were often met with suspicion. If they were hired men as shepherds they were even under more suspicion as they were seen to be more concerned about themselves than their sheep. After all, an owner would be looking out carefully for what was his own. In the old testament, we see leaders of Israel compared to both god shepherds and at times to hirelings.
Even in he new testament, Jesus talks of his apostles as shepherds of his people. The use is good but as time goes on it becomes difficult at times to understand that Jesu was talking of the call to shepherd not only those who believed and answered, but that they were called to reach out to all who had need to hear his call. His call was and is all inclusive to all men to follow his lead to His Father. The shepherd is called to do what ever needs to be done. Jesus condemned the religious leaders of his time for setting themselves apart and over their flock. Their shepherding was for themselves and not for God. That is the danger of shepherding even today that the church can become exclusive and overprotective of itself. Jesus welcomed all and mingled with all seeking to bring about a unity and a way to his Father. His death and resurrection was for all. As shepherd he speaks to us, but do we have the time to listen. Do we set aside time to just open our heart and hear if he has anything to share? After all, is this not what prayer is? Surely we pray and ask for many things, but do we leave our hearts open for words and thoughts from the Spirit to us? Jesus said I know mine and mine know me. How well do we?