For years I’ve thought of doing this series, week after week of dealing with insipid sermons, uninspiring sermons, sermons that wasted glorious opportunities, sermons that had nothing to do with the Readings . . . “I could have done a better job at that!” I’ve thought more times than I can count. Well, let’s give it a whirl, shall we?
It was Good Shepherd weekend: the Readings centered around “The Lord is my shepherd,” and “I am the Good Shepherd.” Sheep are funny animals. Until fairly recent history, their wool was an economic staple throughout Europe and probably the New World as well, so they were an investment in their owners’ livelihoods. But they aren’t particularly smart animals, not at all like dogs or horses or even cows. I visited friends who had sheep, one weekend several years ago, and the dumb creatures entertained me no end: if one got spooked and leapt up in the air over some invisible spookiness, every single one of them would leap into the air, after her. Nothing there — just that one jumped over something, so we all have to jump over . . . where was it? Doesn’t matter, just JUMP!
There are two parts to this scenario that I want to point out as edifying. No, three —
1. The Good shepherd lays down his life for his friends. A hireling, on the other hand, is looking out for #1, and so long as he’s safe and comfortable, the fate of the sheep doesn’t bother him so much. In fact, he’ll abandon the sheep to their brutal fate rather than be inconvenienced or made uncomfortable — much less endangered.
During the covid-19 shutdown, some very good priests have been frustrated at the shutdown of the Mass and the prohibition of visits to shut-ins, hospital and nursing home patients. They are aware that their vocation mandates that they serve the flock, even if it costs them their lives — as it did Christ. To be thwarted in the celebration of Sacraments and the service of the Faithful is painful to them. They are concerned for our spiritual well-being, even more than of our physical health, and they are willing to do whatever it costs them to see us draw closer to The Shepherd, and to get to heaven.
2. The sheep know their shepherd’s voice. That means we listen attentively, and obey promptly so as to hear His voice more clearly, in future.
3. Sheep follow one another, which means we have a duty as well as a privilege to follow close to the Master’s feet, so those who are watching US will be faithfully led.