-Pope Francis: Pastors should smell like the sheep
-Count sheep to sleep
-"What do pastors do to the sheep?", Sunday School question. '"They shear them", little Amy answers.
-One Televangelist: Ho do you run a church? First form, then feed and finally fleece!!!
-A book about another televangelist: Ministers do better than "laypeople"!
-The Chief minister of Kerala, a practicing Christian, was at a Peoples' Grievance Redressal public meeting on April 23, 2015. Over 9,000 people gathered with issues to be addressed by him. He stayed up to 2:30 am the next day from 9:00 am the previous day. There was a power failure and so they started a generator which had barely enough diesel and so it conked out. So they attached a table fan to the only UPS meant for the computer to keep running. So he said, "If my people have to bear this heat, I could also. Turn it off!"
a. Know the shepherd
b. Called by name: Jesus calls: Mary in Grief and loss; Thomas in doubt (don't be an unbeliever), Peter in betrayal (Do you love me more than ...?); Saul the persecutor (Why are you persecuting me?); Zachhaeus, Simon, Philip ....
c. Lay down my life for you - wolf/enemies/persecution
d. leadership today: we are shepherds and sheep: Parents, teachers, cops, politicians, executives
Tony Kayala, c.s.c.
It is an ancient custom in our Catholic Church that this fourth Sunday of Easter time is given to a reflection on chapter 10 of St John’s gospel, with its theme of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. In each of the three years, on this Sunday we spend time on just one section of the chapter, reflecting on it.
In more recent years, it has also become customary that on this Sunday we remember specially our Church’s need for more people who will give themselves to the task of shepherding God’s people. They do so by joining the ministry of the entire Church. On this Sunday then, we pray for more and better vocations to the priesthood.
This year’s passage goes from verse 11 to verse 18.
– Verses 11 – 13: the passage starts off by establishing a striking contrast between two people: the good shepherd, and the hireling.
Good shepherds are noted because they are willing to lay down their lives for their sheep. Everyone in the world will feel touched by this fact of history which we can all see and appreciate – even though in our culture we may have in fact no shepherds to point to. The sheep belong to them, and they really care for them. Whatever happens to the sheep also touches them.
There were and still are others, however, who look after their sheep not as their own but simply as “hirelings”. They are in charge of the sheep but have their own way of dealing with them. They don’t have a feel for their sheep; they have never given anything of themselves personally to them.
As soon as they see a wolf (or some such hostile being) coming, they run away. They know the sheep do not belong to them, are not really one of theirs, and so they abandon them. Then we know what happens: the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep, sending them off in different directions. Now they will look for other green spots wherever they can find them. The places they look to will obviously include some which are not true pastures at all; they will provide new opportunities but will not be true “places where green grass is available”. In other words, sheep often do not find a place for their pasture, a place to relax and be fed with good food.
The so-called hirelings included many in the audience at the time. We think of people like the scribes, the pharisees, the chief priests and the elders. They took on the role of rulers of the people because they needed to have authority over them. They wanted the popularity and the wellbeing it brought them.
We can go further and think of similar examples in our time. We remember people who say they will look after the sheep
– only because no one else is doing it;
– because it panders to their sense of their well-being;
– because no one else is really interested.
We will certainly find that somewhere in our lives we have a combination of the two themes. We are all part of the good shepherd and part of the hireling. Lord, teach us how to keep the two parts in our own hearts – and to accept that we have both within each of us.
- In verses 13 and 14 the theme is developed further. The good shepherd knows well that the Father knows and loves all his sheep. This is a tricky question. It gives the impression that it is not merely a question of a shepherd liking his sheep. This would be to misunderstand the passage. The shepherd loves the sheep, but he is also very aware that his love for them did not originate with himself. He has received it from the heavenly Father in whose hands he lies.
This is the deep reason why we lay down our lives to protect all our sheep. We know we will be persecuted by others for standing by our promises to accept this as part of our eternal destiny. This is what God wants for us. We acknowledge this and try our best to live up to it.
– Verses 15 – 16: There are other sheep who we know do not belong to us here and now but we are still attached to them. They are not part of our own community, but we know that the Father knows and loves them all. The Father recognises too that they will have to become one. Soon they will all be together, living with peace under one Shepherd. As Christians we know too that we will be one of those who are called to be among them as their shepherds.
– Verses 17 – 18: What the Father loves about the Good Shepherd is stated more clearly. He loves him because he lays down his life and will soon take it up again. This is a particular aspect of the passage which we can give some stress to. No one takes our life from us. We lay it down of our own free will. As it is in our power to lay it down and take it up again, this is what we do with the various temptations God sends us in our lives. We know how to accept them and do something important about them.
This is not something we have thought out for ourselves. It is a great and glorious commandment which we have received from our Father who continues to dwell in heaven.
“With this people, it costs nothing to be a good shepherd.” Archbishop Romero
Father, we thank you that you have called us to be shepherds of your flock.
Like all good shepherds we are willing to lay down our lives for the sheep.
We are not like hirelings, who looks after your sheep
because of the importance they have received from them.
Since the sheep do not belong to them,
they abandon them and run away as soon as they see a wolf coming.
Then the wolf attacks the sheep,
and scatters them in whatever direction they are willing to go.
This is because they are only hired men and have no concern for the sheep.
“A man ought not to consider his chance of living or dying. He ought only to consider on any given occasion whether he is doing right or wrong.” Socrates
Lord, we thank you that you have loved your sheep with your personal love
and then handed them over to us.
Because we know you, we can lay down our lives for your sheep,
knowing that we will beg for new life for them.
“We think we are fleeing from God, but in fact we are running into his arms.” Meister Eckhart
Lord, there are many sheep you have who are not of our fold,
but you want us to lead them as well.
We thank you for having given them to us
so that very soon there will be just one shepherd
and we know that we will be among those who will lead them.
“Prayer is not given to us to change the world.
It is meant to change us so that we can change the world.” Sr Joan Chittister
Lord, we thank you that you love us because we have power
to lay down our lives in order to take them up again.
No one takes our lives from us.
We lay them down of our own free will
and it is in our power to take them up again.
This is the great and glorious command we have received
from our Father who is in heaven.
Lord, we pray at this moment for the military personnel in Iraq.
We pray that they may lay down their lives
for the sake of the sheep and be willing to die for them.
Lord, we thank you for those sons of ours
who will give themselves to the service of your people
as their good shepherds.
Introduction to the Celebration
One of the gentle images that we find applied to God in the Old Testament is that the Lord is the shepherd of his people: The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want. We Christians apply this title to Christ the Lord. He is the good Shepherd who knows his sheep and lays down his life for them. We may find this language of sheep and flocks and shepherds strange, but beneath the imagery the belief it points to is at the heart of our faith: God is gentle, concerned, caring and just.
1. The language of shepherding, of sheep, and of flocks is, historically, very much part of the church’s self-understanding. We refer frequently to ‘pastors,’ ‘pastoral work,’ ‘the flock,’ the pastoral staff (crosier), ‘the defence of the church from wolves,’ and so forth. This language is often objected to by Christians today as patronising power-language. ‘While before God we acknowledge our need to be disciples, when men set out to pastor us it is often all too clear that they treat us like sheep’ (remark of someone to me after hearing the Good Shepherd gospel in 1995). Moreover, most of the images of this shepherding are power-oriented: crosiers are things people get ‘raps of in common language and in the formal language of the law bishops are appointed to, or resign from, ‘the actual pastoral government’. For someone in a formal position of authority, e.g. a priest’in full uniform’ at an ambo, to say that ‘Jesus left us a pastoral ministry in the church’ can seem like a piece of ‘user-friendly’ ‘official-speak’ meaning ‘the command structure has divine sanction’ ing it is irrelevant whether this is true or not, this is how much of the shepherd / sheep language is received. It must be used with an awareness that it is a debased currency and that ecclesial structures built with this language may also be in need of revision.
2. The identification of the presbyteral ministry with the work of the Good Shepherd on this Sunday presents that ministry as an elite group which stands in distinction to those for whom they are pastors: they lead, guide, defend, and stand to that group as Christ stands to the whole church. These are very direct and powerful symbols, but symbols we use comfortably as they seem hallowed by use. However, it is important to note how problematical this whole symbol system is and how it can create a very false view of the nature of the church. How often do we use two-tier language of leaders / led, clergy / lay, or military language or ‘army of priests’ or ‘the troops’. Such metaphors presuppose a univocal view of authority where the work of Christ is virtually that of the ordained, and this can be seen in terms of a hierarchy. Any genuine discussion of ministry, from the most private ministry of one Christian to another to that of Petrine ministry seen around the globe, must begin with the fact of each baptised person having a skill/ gift/ talent in a unique way, in a specific situation, so that another can experience the presence of the caring Christ, and thus the kingdom can in some particular way be realised.
3. Focusing on the ordained priesthood as a direct continuity with Christ runs to risk of failing to note that his priesthood is unique: he has an unique relationship to the Father, and he establishes an unique relationship with us which is like it. Likewise, an emphasis on ‘vocations to the priesthood and the religious life’, if not seen as an exceptional expression of the basic reality of each person needing to be aware of their call to minister, creates an imbalance in the our preaching and involves the possibility, not unknown in practice, that the basic nature of vocation might be ignored and people might reduce ‘vocation and ‘ministry’ to these high-visibility tasks.
4. So the basic question we must address in homilies today is how are we to view ministry. Each of us lives in a connected series of worlds: family, close friends, the people we work with, the local community, the Christian community assembled, the town, county, country, Europe. We interact at all these levels: we need them and contribute to them; we are needed by these as well. This is most obviously the case in the worlds that are close to us: we need others and they need us. This human interaction is the concrete base of ministry. We are brought towards the perfection we all desire and pray for, the kingdom, by the drawing love of the Father in Christ, but this becomes a visible fact through human hands and minds and voices. In each situation we find ourselves – and our spheres of ministry are all unique to us and of different extents – others are helping us towards the goal (i.e. those who minister to us: spouses supporting and encouraging, children making us love less selfishly, people who help us make life run smoothly from petrol pump attendants to politicians (note we use the language of ministry here: ‘ministers’ and ‘civil servants’), to those who witness to the truth and help us towards understanding such as teachers, to those who help us in sickness, to those who provide food, and those who have special skills in the Christian community.) And we help others towards the goal (our ministry). To be a Christian is to be aware of the relationships that bind us and to have an attitude of care and contribution because we believe that in Christ the kingdom is not a dream but a divine promise.
5. To believe in the risen Christ involves seeing life with hope. We join in the task of life as more than just sets of contracts (‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine’). Contracts may be necessary to protect us from exploitation, but we believe that there is something more and we are called to witness to it. To act as a Christian is to be aware of how we affect others, and are affected by others, for good or ill, and to act knowing that Christ acts as a good shepherd: he stands by us and brings us into a life of love such as that he shares with the Father. From the Father to the Son, from the Good Shepherd to us, and from us to others: a pattern of love and care where the basis of interaction cannot be a system of contracts alone, but must draw on a generosity that flows from being members of a family.
6. To talk about specific vocations, e.g. ordained ministry, before we make clear our Christian vision and give it visible expression in our external Christian structure, is to assume that the ordained minister is just one more ‘service provider’ — like the electrician or the solicitor — in a world of contracts: we need certain religious things for our survival, then let us ‘buy them in’ from the experts (priests in their special place of work: church buildings) and all can look on the priesthood as a job and the church as merely the functional organisation that organises the services required. This picture of priesthood and ministry — historically not unlike the tasks assigned to the various priesthoods of early imperial Rome — can be all too real and draws both non-Christians and Christians, indeed many priests, into its web. To reflect on the risen Shepherd is to challenge this view.
In the tenth chapter of John’s gospel, the focus is on the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. This language is to be understood in the light of Old Testament ideas that God was the shepherd of Israel and that their kings were meant to follow his example. Often they failed in this duty and the people were abandoned. It is also to be read in the light of what took place in chapter 9 with the man born blind. The Pharisees in that story represent blind leaders who are incapable of leading the people to God. Jesus, on the other hand, as the Good Shepherd, is the one who lays down his life for his sheep. Not only that, he is aware of them not simply as a flock but he knows each of them individually and they know him. In John, the verb to know has a particular importance because it highlights the fact that coming to faith involves getting to know Jesus. it is all about a personal relationship. Each of is invited to come to know the one who lays down his life for us in an act of love.
In this time between Easter and Pentecost we might be tempted to think of these events as historical moments in the distant past which gave rise to the religion which we practice today. This religion for many is then seen as a moral code by which they live in the hope of attaining heaven. For Peter and John, however, the Christian experience was something very much in the here and now. They felt that their lives were driven by the Spirit of Jesus which made them aware on a daily basis of how God was at work in the world and in their own hearts. These readings are a powerful witness to the terrific dynamism which characterises a genuine Christianity. If it seems too far removed from our experience perhaps it is a sign that we need to invite the Holy Spirit to reawaken in us the joyful energy which comes from understanding the love that the Father has lavished on us. We are challenged to come to know Jesus as our Good Shepherd who even now leads us to restful waters and gives us repose.
From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:
1) Pope John Paul II, the good shepherd.
The most beautiful and meaningful comment on the life and the legacy of Pope John Paul II was made by the famous televangelist Billy Graham. In a TV Interview he said: “He lived like his Master the Good Shepherd and he died like his Master the Good Shepherd.” In today’s gospel, Jesus claims that he is the Good Shepherd and explains what he does for his sheep.2) A good shepherd and the Ku Klux Klan:
On June 22, 1996 at Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Ku Klux Klan held a rally at the City Hall. They had a permit for the event, it was advertised in advance, and more than 300 demonstrators appeared to protest the rally. One Klansman, who was wearing clothes displaying the Confederate flag, was attacked by a swarm of demonstrators and pushed to the ground. Appalled, an 18-year-old African-American girl named Keisha Thomas threw herself over the fallen man, shielding him with her own body from the kicks and punches. Keisha, when asked why she, a black teenager, would risk injury to protect a man who was a white supremacist, said, “He’s still somebody’s child. I don’t want people to remember my name but I’d like them to remember I did the right thing.”
3) A good shepherd-sergeant’s story:
There was once a sergeant in the Marines who was the senior enlisted man in his platoon. One day his outfit was ambushed and pinned down by enemy fire. The lieutenant in command was badly wounded as were many of the men. The sergeant took over and extricated the men from the trap, though he himself was wounded twice. He carried out the wounded commanding officer by himself. Miraculously every man in the platoon survived, even the wounded lieutenant. Later the men said that if it were not for the incredible bravery of the sergeant they all would have been killed. He was recommended for the Medal of Honor, but received the DFC. He never wore the medal, however, because he said the lives of his men were more important than any medal. Later when he had children of his own, he loved them almost like a mother. His wife said that during the war he had learned how to be tender.
4) Good shepherd and the terrorists:
In the film The Delta Force there is the beautiful picture of a good shepherd presented by a Catholic priest. A jet plane with American tourists is hijacked by Arab terrorists and later the tourists are held hostage in the plane which was landed by force in Beirut. At the beginning of the tragedy, the two Arab terrorists aboard the jetliner begin to separate the few Jewish tourists from the rest of the hostages. One of the most moving moments of the film is when Fr. William O’Malley, a priest from Chicago played by George Kennedy, gets up from his seat and walks into the First Class compartment where the Jews are being held. The priest courageously walks into the compartment where he is disdainfully met by the leading terrorist. The terrorist asks what his name is and the priest responds that his name is William O’Malley. Perplexed by the situation, the terrorist asks what the priest wants. He responds that since he is a Catholic priest and a follower of Jesus Christ, a Jew, he too is Jewish. “If you take one, you have to take us all”, answers the priest who willingly accompanies the Jewish hostages. At the end of the story we find Lee Marvin and Chuck Norris lead an elite team of U.S. Special Forces that rescues the endangered travelers.
The fourth Sunday of Easter is known as Good Shepherd Sunday. It is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. The scripture lessons are about shepherds. Each year on this Sunday we reflect on the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, devotedly taking care of his flock. The title of the parish priest, "pastor," means shepherd. A shepherd leads, feeds, nurtures, comforts, corrects, and protects his flock—responsibilities that belong to every church leader. The earliest Christians had seen Jesus as the fulfillment of the ancient Jewish dream of a good shepherd. They also wished to include the Gentiles as part of God’s flock. In today's first reading, Peter asserts unequivocally before the Jewish assembly that there is no salvation except through Christ the Good Shepherd whom the Jewish leaders have rejected and crucified, and in whose name the apostles preach and heal. In the second reading, St. John tells us how Yahweh the Good Shepherd of the Old Testament expressed His love for us through His Son Jesus, the Good Shepherd, by making us His children. The Gospel text offers us both comfort and challenge. The comforting good news is that Jesus the Good Shepherd knows us, provides for us and loves us. The challenge is that we should be good shepherds to those entrusted to our care.
First reading, Acts 4:8-12: After describing the ascension of Jesus in the first chapter and the descent of the Holy Spirit in the second chapter, the Acts of the Apostles describes in its third chapter Peter’s healing and preaching ministry. The healing of the cripple and the resulting evangelization by Peter resulted in his arrest by the Temple guards. They hauled Peter and his companions to the assembly of the leaders, elders and the scribes. Today's reading tells us that in the trial before theSanhedrin (Acts 4:5-22), Peter was empowered by the Holy Spirit to bear a renewed Easter witness to the Son of God, Jesus Christ the Nazarene, who had been unjustly crucified, but whom God had raised from the dead. Peter explained that he had healed the cripple in the name of Jesus, whom the Jews had despised and rejected but whom God had made into the cornerstone of his faith. What moved Peter to act on behalf of the cripple was his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who, as the good shepherd, cares for such people. In imitation of the Lord who had always cared for the sick and the lowly, Peter was also moved by the same risen Lord to reach out, touch, and heal the cripple. Then Peter made the startling statement about salvation coming only through Christ Jesus: “Salvation is to be found through him alone. In all the world there is no one else whom God has given who can save us.”
Second Reading, 1 John 3:1-2: The New American Bible in its introduction to John’s letters states that John wrote these letters to the Judeo-Christian community some of whose members were advocating false doctrines(2:18-26; 3:7). They refused to accept the full divinity and full humanity of Jesus, disregarded the commandment of love of neighbor, refused to accept faith in Christ as the source of sanctification and denied the redemptive value of Jesus' death. After recognizing and correcting these errors, John in today’s second reading reminds his people that they should remember their privileges. First, it is their privilege to be called the children of God. John clarifies that we are not merely called the children of God; we are God's children in actuality. It is by grace through baptism that we become God’s children. The more we know and love the God we believe in, the more we will strive to act and live as God's children. In other words, we become like the God we believe in. As the culmination of all our privileges as children of God, when Christ appears, we shall see him “as He really is,” and we shall be like him.
The context: It was in the winter time, probably the time of the Jewish Hanukkah feast(the Feast of Dedication), which commemorated the triumph of the Jewish commander Judas Maccabaeus over the Syrian leader Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 165B.C. Jesus was walking on the east side of the temple, which offered protection against the cold winds from the desert. The Jews had gathered round him. They were not sure whether or not Jesus was the promised Messiah. They tried to assess the situation, by asking Jesus whether he was the Christ or simply a wandering preacher, one of the many wandering preachers and healers. Instead of giving them a straight answer, Jesus tells them that he is the Good Shepherd and explains to them his role as such.
Shepherds in the Old Testament: In the Old Testament, the image of the Shepherd is often applied to God as well as to the leaders of the people. The book of Exodus several times calls Yahweh a shepherd. Likewise, the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel compare Yahweh’s care and protection of His people to that of a shepherd. “He is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them against His breast and leading the mother ewes to their rest.” (Is. 40:11). Ezekiel represents God as a loving shepherd who searches diligently for the lost sheep. Psalm 23is David’s famous picture of God as The Good Shepherd: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me.” The prophets often use harsh words to scold the selfish and insincere shepherds (or leaders) of their day. Jer.23:1: “Doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of my pasture to be destroyed and scattered." Ez. 34: 2: “Trouble for the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Shepherds ought to feed their flock.”
The Good Shepherd in the New Testament: Introducing himself as the good shepherd of his flock, Jesus makes three claims in today’s gospel.
1) He knows his sheep and his sheep hear his voice: Just as the Palestinian shepherds knew each sheep of their flock by name, and the sheep knew their shepherd and his voice, even so Jesus knows each one of us, our needs, our merits and our faults. Of course the knowledge talked of here is not mere intellectual knowing but knowledge that comes from love and leads to care and concern for the other. He loves us as we are, with all our limitations, and he expects us to receive and return his love by keeping his words. He speaks to us at every Mass, through the Bible, through our pastors, through our parents, family and friends and through the events of our lives. "God whispers to us in our pleasures, he speaks to us in our consciences, and he SHOUTS to us in our pain!" (C.S. Lewis).
2) He gives eternal life to his sheep by receiving us into his sheepfold through Baptism. He strengthens our faith by giving us his Holy Spirit in Confirmation. He supplies food for our souls by the Holy Eucharist and by the divine words of the holy Bible. He makes our society holy by the sacraments of matrimony and the priesthood.
3) He protects his sheep by placing them in the loving hands of his mighty Father. Without him to guide us and protect us, we are easy prey for the spiritual wolves of this world: that includes Satan, as well as the seven deadly sins of pride, avarice, envy, gluttony, anger, lust and sloth. In the first part of chapter ten of John’s Gospel, Jesus adds two more roles to those of the good shepherd. He goes in search of stray lambs and heals the sick ones. Jesus heals the wounds of our souls by the sacrament of Reconciliation and strengthens us in illness and old age by the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
4) Jesus dies for his sheep: Just as the shepherds of ancient days protected their sheep from wild animals and thieves by risking their own lives, so Jesus died in expiation for the sins of all people. In the final part of this gospel Jesus invites those who are touched and saved by the love of the Shepherd, to shepherd and care for others. "There are other sheep that are not of this fold and these I have to lead as well." Though he cares for his own, he does not discriminate and ultimately dies because he cares for all peoples.
Let us become good shepherds and good sheep.
1) Let us become good shepherds: Everyone who is entrusted with the care of others is a shepherd. Hence pastors, parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, government officials and politicians are all shepherds. Since shepherding a diocese, a parish, a civil community or a family is very demanding, dedication, commitment, sacrifice and vigilance are needed every day on the part of the shepherds. We become good shepherds by loving those entrusted to us, praying for them, spending our time and talents for their welfare, and guarding them from physical and spiritual dangers. Parents must be especially careful of their duties as shepherds by becoming role models for their children by leading exemplary lives
2) Let us be good sheep in the fold of Jesus, the Good Shepherd: Our local parish is our sheepfold, and our pastors are our shepherds. Jesus is the High Priest, the bishops are the successors of the apostles, the pastors are their helpers and the parishioners are the sheep. Hence, as the good sheep of our parish, a) Let us hear and follow the voice of our shepherds through their homilies, Bible classes, counseling and advice. b) Let us take the spiritual food given by our pastors through regular and active participation in the Holy Mass and by frequenting the sacraments, prayer services, renewal programs and missions. c) Let us cooperate with our pastors by giving them positive suggestions for the welfare of the parish, encouraging them in their duties, occasionally correcting them with constructive criticism and by praying for them. Let us also cooperate in the activities of various councils, ministries and parish associations.
3) Let us pray for vocations to priestly and religious life so that we may have more holy and Spirit-filled shepherds to lead, feed and protect the Catholic community. Christian thinking on vocation has been summarized in one profound saying: “All are priests, some are priests, but only one is the Priest.” Christ Jesus is the Priest in the full sense because he is the one mediator between God and humanity who offered himself as a unique sacrifice on the cross. The universal priesthood of all believers, the sharing of all the baptized in the priesthood of Christ, has received special emphasis since Vatican II. Those who are called to make a lifelong commitment to serve as ordained ministers share the ministerial priesthood of Jesus. On this World Day of Prayer for Vocations we are asked to encourage and pray for our young men to respond to God’s call to serve His Church in the ministerial priesthood.
1) "May I see your driver's license?"
Everyone, it seems, is interested in my numbers. I go to the grocery store to buy some groceries. After the checkout woman rings up my bill, I pull out my check book and write out the check. She takes it from me. She looks at the information. Numbers tell her where I live. Numbers tell her how to reach me on the telephone. "Is this information correct?" she asks.” Yes, it is," I reply. "May I see your driver's license?" she asks. She looks at my driver's license and writes some more numbers on my check. Finally, I am approved. The numbers are all there. I can eat for another week. One could wish it were a bit more human and personal. So the IRS knows me by my tax number. My state knows me by my driver's license number. My bank knows me by my bank account number. My employer knows me by my social security number. On and on it goes for you, for me, for everybody. Everybody knows my numbers. I am not sure that anyone knows me! The numbers game that is played in our culture is one symptom of loneliness and alienation that surrounds us today. "All the lonely people, where do they all come from?" That is a line from an early song by the Beatles. Loneliness. Isolation. Alienation. These are the realities of contemporary civilized life. "I am the good shepherd." These are Jesus' words in our reading from John's gospel text for this sermon. "I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me ..." Today’s gospel tells us that Jesus knows us personally and loves us.
2) Jesus knows his sheep by name:
There have always been people with a good memory for names: Napoleon, "who knew thousands of his soldiers by name . . .” or James A. Farley, "who claimed he knew 50,000 people by their first name . . .” or Charles Schwab, "who knew the names of all 8,000 of his employees at Home stead Mill . . .” or Charles W. Eliot, "who, during his forty years as president of Harvard, earned the reputation of knowing all the students by name each year. . .” or Harry Lorayne, "who used to amaze his audiences by being introduced to hundreds of people, one after another, then giving the name of any person who stood up and requested it.” But can you imagine Christ knowing all his sheep by name? That's millions and millions of people over 2,000 years. No wonder we call him Master, Lord, Savior – watching over his flock, calling each by name.
3) “I only know them by name."
Tony Campolo loves to tell the story of a particular census taker who went to the home of a rather poor family in the mountains of West Virginia to gather information. He asked the mother how many dependents she had. She began, "Well, there is Rosie, and Billy, and Lewella, Susie, Harry, and Jeffrey. There's Johnny, and Harvey, and our dog, Willie. "It was then that the census taker interrupted her aid said: "No, ma'am, that's not necessary. I only need the humans." "Ah," she said. "Well, there is Rosie, and Billy, and Lewella, Susie, Harry, and Jeffrey, Johnny, and Harvey, and...." But there once again, the census taker interrupted her. Slightly exasperated, he said, "No, ma'am, you don't seem to understand. I don't need their names, I just need the numbers." To which the old woman replied, "But I don't know them by numbers. I only know them by name." In today’s gospel Jesus the good shepherd says that he knows his sheep by name.
4) “I'd like to preserve my integrity and credibility."
About 4 years ago, Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, offered WGN Chicago Radio sports-talk host David Kaplan$50,000 to change his name legally to "Dallas Maverick." When Kaplan politely declined, Cuban sweetened the offer. Cuban would pay Kaplan $100,000and donate $100,000 to Kaplan's favorite charity if he took the name for one year. After some soul searching, and being bombarded by e-mails from listeners who said he was crazy to turn down the money, Kaplan held firm and told Cubanno. Kaplan explained: "I'd be saying I'd do anything for money, and that bothers me. My name is my birthright. I'd like to preserve my integrity and credibility." Skip Bayless, Chicago Tribune (1/10/01), Leadership Summer2001) The name "Christian" is our birthright. From the moment of our baptism and our birth into the Kingdom of God, we are the sheep of the Good Shepherd who promises to lead us to green pastures and beside the still waters. The Voice of the Shepherd protects us.
5) His master’s voice:
Have you ever seen the painting done in the 1930s of a dog, looking with a cocked head, at an old gramophone? The name of the painting is His Master's Voice, and it's a symbol of what Jesus is saying to us. "The sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out."
6) “I know the psalm.
The pastor knows the Shepherd.” A famous actor was the guest of honor at a social gathering. As people gathered around, they asked the actor to recite excerpts from various literary works. He obliged and did so brilliantly. Finally, an elderly pastor asked the actor to recite the 23rd Psalm. The actor hesitated at first and then agreed on one condition. The pastor would return the favor. The actor’s recitation was brilliant and eloquent. People responded to the actor with lengthy applause. The pastor’s rendition was feeble and frail. But when the pastor finished, there was not a dry eye in the house. Finally, the actor broke the silence with these words: “I know the psalm. The pastor knows the Shepherd.” “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” Do you know the Shepherd? Have you found Him to be good? Have you discovered He is all you need?
7) “Then we FLEECE them!”
Two television evangelists were talking. One was explaining how he was seeking to be the ideal shepherd to his television flock. “There are three ways I seek to do that,” he said. “What three ways do you mean?” asked the other evangelist. “Well” he explained, “First, we FIND them. Every year we find new stations to carry our ministry. Then we FEED them. I give them the plain unvarnished word of God.” “But what’s he third thing?” asked the second evangelist. “Well,” he answered, “Once we’ve found them and fed them, then we FLEECE them!” Some TV evangelists have become quite proficient at fleecing their flock. I hope you understand that nothing could be farther from the example of Christ. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep . . .” Fleecing the flock is a long way from laying down your life for them.
8) “But I never jumped.”
A paratrooper who had recently resigned from the military was asked how many times he had jumped out of an airplane. He said, “None.” A friend of his asked, “What do you mean, ‘none,’ I thought you were a paratrooper?” He said, “I was, but I never jumped. I was pushed several times . . . but I never jumped.” The hired hand never jumps. He has to be pushed. Churches often have hired hands in them. Not our church, of course. But other churches are full of people who have to be pushed to do what they know they ought to do. Jesus did not have to be pushed.
9) “I give my life for my sheep”:
We applaud when a man or woman gives his or her life for another. Such instances do come along from time to time. Murfreesboro, Tennessee. May 28, 1989: "Former NFL football player Jerry Anderson," read the newspaper account, "died Saturday after pulling two young boys out of a rain-swollen river about 40 miles southeast of Nashville. Witnesses said Anderson saw two boys, thought to be 11 or 12 years old, attempting to cross a dam spanning the river. One or both boys fell into the water. According to Officer Bill Todd, ‘Mr. Anderson jumped in the water and managed to get the little boys out, but witnesses said he went under two or three times and about the fourth time, he didn't come back up.’" He gave his life to rescue two small boys.
Of course, you don't have to be an American or a football player for such heroic actions. In a Middle school in the Ukrainian village of Ivanichi a young teacher died sometime back. He absorbed the blast of a hand grenade to protect his pupils. What was a grenade doing in a middle school? According to the London Times, the teacher, a graduate of the KGB border guard college, had been delivering the military instruction that is a compulsory part of the curriculum for Soviet children. He was teaching them how to handle what should have been an unarmed grenade. When he pulled the pin a wisp of smoke showed that a live grenade had become mixed in with demonstration grenades, and he gave his life.
You don't have to be a man to perform such heroics. Many years ago a woman carrying a baby through the hills of South Wales, England, was overtaken by a blizzard. Searchers found her later frozen to death in the snow. Amazed that she had on no outer garments, they searched further and found her baby. She had wrapped them around the child, who was still alive and well. He grew up to be David Lloyd George, the Prime Minister of Great Britain in World War I.
10) Big Brother is watching us:
Ever since 1984 hit the bookstores, people concerned about individual privacy and freedom have looked for signs that Big Brother is becoming a reality in our society. And it is true that more and more of our urban landscape is being observed by security cameras. But that is only one way our privacy is being invaded. There was a news report several years ago that Israeli scientists are now marketing a microchip that, implanted under the skin, will protect film stars and millionaires from kidnappers. The chip emits a signal detectable by satellite to help rescuers determine a victim’s approximate location. Originally the chip was developed to track Israeli secret-service agents abroad. The $5,000 chip doesn’t even require batteries. It runs solely on the neurophysiological energy generated within the human body. The firm which developed it, Genetics, won’t reveal where the chip is inserted but said that, at that time, 43 people had had it implanted. Since this report was published there has been an explosion of interest in this technology. Farmers keep tabs on the health and safety of their cows and other livestock with such hips. But the use of such devices to monitor human beings is almost limitless. Already there is a monitoring bracelet for Alzheimer patients, so that families can use GPS systems to help find loved ones who might have wandered off. Would it be inconceivable that loving parents might want to monitor the whereabouts of their children via satellite? Why not have a chip implanted. Pet owners are already using such technology. Some cynics have suggested that some wives might want to monitor their husbands. Soon we will see signs, “Big Brother is watching.” Here’s what’s amusing to me. There are people who have no difficulty believing that one day the government will keep track of us all, but who cannot conceive that an all-knowing God can take a personal interest in each of His children, hear each of our prayers, and be responsive to each of our individual needs.
11) Images are highly influential.
They become emblazoned on the wall of our minds, and they evoke a wide range of responses. Millions of people will remember the fireman carrying the baby out of the ruins of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. World War II veterans, particularly the ones who served in the South Pacific, will always remember Mount Surabachi and the Marines who raised an American flag at its summit, as well as the image of General MacArthur returning to the Philippines. Neil Armstrong taking that first step on the moon in the early '70s is frozen in many memories, too. If you were old enough to watch and understand television in l963, you probably remember young John F. Kennedy, Jr., at the casket of his father Jack. Much closer to our own time, many of us will long retain the image of students running out of Columbine High School with their hands over their heads. Some images are immensely powerful and have a tenacity that is tireless and timeless. If there is one image associated with the Christian faith which, more than any other, has found an enduring place within the collective life of the Christian church, it is the image of Jesus as the good shepherd.
12) Hannah and Her Sisters.
A recent movie by Woody Allen was titled, Hannah and Her Sisters. The movie deals precisely with that theme. It is about Hannah and her sisters and how family life gives some sense of stability to life in a fractured world. The part played by Woody Allen in the movie is the part of a man who is constantly afraid that he will get some terrible disease. He is what we call a hypochondriac. As he comes into the movie, we see him on his way to the doctor. The doctor assures him that nothing seems to be terribly wrong, though some additional tests need to be made. Woody cannot calm himself over these additional tests. He is sure they will find something terrible. "What are you afraid of," one of his friends asks him, "cancer?"" Don't say that," Woody responds with a look of terror. More tests are performed. A cat scan is prescribed for his head. He is sure they will find a brain tumor. But his fears are unfounded. The doctor announces to him that all is well. In the next scene we see Woody coming out of the hospital, kicking up his heels, and running joyfully down the street. He is celebrating. But suddenly he stops. We know instinctively why he stops. He tells us in the next scene. "All this means," he says, "is that I am all right this time. Next time it will probably be serious.” Our lives are lived in constant danger. Woody Allen's character overplays the danger. But the danger is there. There are all kinds of realities that imperil our lives nearly every day. Accidents might befall us. Natural disasters strike. Oppressive structures of life weigh us down. Disease stalks us and death awaits. That is the way life is. We live our lives in constant peril. Woody Allen might have exaggerated a bit, but he is right. Human life is an endangered species. Death calls a halt to every human life. "I am the good shepherd," Jesus says. "The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."
13) The Bismarck:
In the beginning of World War II, the Nazis commissioned a massive battleship named the Bismarck. It was the biggest fighting vessel the world had seen up to that time. With the Bismarck the Germans had the opportunity to dominate the seas. Very soon after it was commissioned, the Bismarck sank tons of Allied shipping and allied aircraft. Its massive armor plating resulted in the boast that the Bismarck was unsinkable. But the Bismarck was sunk. And it was sunk due to one lone torpedo. A torpedo hit the Bismarck in the rudder. As a result the battleship zig-zagged through the sea, unable to reach harbor. It was only a short while before the British navy was able to overtake and destroy it. No matter how large the battleship may be, it is doomed without a rudder to direct it. Floundering on the waters of chaos without a rudder, the Bismarck is a modern-day image of a world without the direction of Jesus the Good Shepherd. Without the Lord, the world is headed toward chaos. But with the Lord there is guidance, direction and purpose in life.
14) Alexander, the shepherd of soldiers.
When the emperor Alexander the Great was crossing the Makran Desert on his way to Persia, his army ran out of water. The soldiers were dying of thirst as they advanced under the burning sun. A couple of Alexander's lieutenants managed to capture some water from a passing caravan. They brought some to him in a helmet. He asked, "Is there enough for both me and my men?" "Only you, sir," they replied. Alexander then lifted up the helmet as the soldiers watched. Instead of drinking, he tipped it over and poured the water on the ground. The men let up a great shout of admiration. They knew their general would not allow them to suffer anything he was unwilling to suffer himself.
15) “It will kill you if you move.”
A soldier dying on a Korean battle field asked for a priest. The Medic could not find one. A wounded man lying nearby heard the request and said, “I am a priest.” The Medic turned to the speaker and saw his condition, which was as bad as that of the other. “It will kill you if you move,” he warned. But the wounded chaplain replied. “The life of a man’s soul is worth more than a few hours of my life.” He then crawled to the dying soldier, heard his confession, gave him absolution and the two died hand in hand.
16) Four clergymen,
taking a short break from their heavy schedules, were on a park bench, chatting and enjoying an early spring day. “You know, since all of us are such good friends,” said one, “this might be a good time to discuss personal problems.” They all agreed. “Well, I would like to share with you the fact that I drink to excess,” said one. There was a gasp from the other three. Then another spoke up. “Since you were so honest, I’d like to say that my big problem is gambling. It’s terrible, I know, but I can’t quit. I’ve even been tempted to take money from the collection plate.” Another gasp was heard, and the third clergyman spoke. “I’m really troubled, brothers, because I’m growing fond of a woman in my church — a married woman.” More gasps. But the fourth remained silent. After a few minutes the others coaxed him to open up. “The fact is,” he said, “I just don’t know how to tell you about my problem.” “It’s all right, brother. Your secret is safe with us,” said the others. “Well, it’s this way,” he said. “You see, I’m an incurable gossip.” Jokes like this have shaped our views of priests as if there is no difference between the life and work of a priest and that of other Christians. Today’s gospel tells us that priests are expected to be Good Shepherds as the picture given by Jesus. (Fr. Munacci).
17) Who is Your Shepherd?
The TV is my shepherd I shall not want,It makes me to lie down on the sofa.
It leads me away from the faith,
It destroys my soul.
It leads me to the path of sex and violence for the advertiser’s sake.
Even though I walk in the shadow of Christian responsibilities,
There will be no interruption, for the TV is with me.
Its cable and remote control, they comfort me
It prepares a commercial for me in the midst of my worldliness
And anoints my head with secular humanism and consumerism.
My covetousness runs over;
Surely ignorance and laziness shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of wretchedness watching TV forever.
(Broadcasted on EWTN on March 18 2002)
18) A man comes upon a shepherd guarding his flock, and proposes a wager:
"I will bet you $100, against one of your sheep, that I can tell you the exact number in this flock," the man says. The shepherd accepts. "973," says the man. The shepherd, astonished at the accuracy, says "I'm a man of my word; take the sheep you have won." The man picks a ‘sheep’ and begins to walk away. "Wait," cries the shepherd, "Let me have a chance to get even. Double or nothing that I can guess your exact occupation.” "Sure," replies the man. "You work for the Tax Bureau," says the shepherd. "Amazing!" responds the man, "How did you deduce that?” "Well," says the shepherd, "if you will first putdown my dog, I will tell you."19) Q. How do you make God smile? Tell Him your plans! (Sent by Fr. Brian)
20) It's been said that every pastor ought to have six weeks of vacation each year, because if he is a real good shepherd, he deserves it; and if he is not a very good shepherd, his congregation deserves it.
John 10:11-18 - "The Good Shepherd"1 John 3:16-24 - "Candidates for God's Candid Camera" by Leonard Sweet
It is small wonder that the image of the shepherd was frequently upon the lips of the savior. It was a part of his heritage and culture. Abraham, the father of the nation, was the keeper of great flocks. Moses was tending the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro, when God called him into a special service. David was a shepherd boy called in from the fields to be the King of Israel.
The imagery of the shepherd was also imprinted upon the literature of the day. The 23rd Psalm is frequently referred to as the shepherd psalm. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside still waters."
When Isaiah spoke of the coming of the Messiah he worded it by saying: "He will feed his flock like a shepherd! He will gather his lambs into his arms." Yes, the tradition of the shepherd was very much a part of the heritage of Christ.
This picture comes more clearly into focus in the New Testament. Jesus once told a story about a shepherd who had 100 sheep, but one of them went astray. In our way of thinking a 99% return on our investment would be most desirable, but not this shepherd. He left the 99 to go in search of that one lost sheep. Later, when Jesus was speaking to a great throng of people, Mark tells us that he had compassion upon them because they were "as sheep without a shepherd."
Throughout the Judeo-Christian faith, then, the image of the shepherd has been stamped upon our thinking. In our scripture text for this morning Jesus again taps into this imagery when he refers to himself as the good shepherd. For a few moments this morning, I would like for us to examine together what he had in mind when he described himself as the Good Shepherd.
1. First, we have a shepherd that is a genuine shepherd.
2. Second, I think that the Good Shepherd knows his sheep.3. Third, the Good Shepherd also includes other sheep.
4. Fourth, the shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.
Everyone hates to be surprised.
And loves it.
It didn't take long for something called "television" to find that out. Filming people when they didn't know they were on camera brought extremely entertaining and unexpected results.
Anyone remember "Candid Camera?"
Can you remember the name of the host? . . . . [Allen Funt]. Can you remember the catchphrase of the show? . . . ["Smile, You're on Candid Camera"].
In the early 60's, "Candid Camera" secretly recorded the reactions of people when they were confronted with strange and surprising circumstances. Actors would approach a random person "on the street" with some proposal or problem. The film crew would then secretly film the good, bad, or indifferent behavior of those individuals. People were asked to hold bags of money, tend fussy babies, stay put while a sprinkler system doused them, listen to terrible concerts. The situations the "candid camera" came up with were classic and comic. For the most part, people seemed to cope graciously with whatever they were asked to do. But almost everyone ended up at some point with that "what-have-I-got-myself-into" look of desperation on their face.
Flash forward fifty years. TV is still doing the "candid camera" thing, but with far less comedy involved. Although Ashton Kutcher's "Punked" was a comedic but crueler version of Candid Camera, most undercover filming, catching people being themselves when they think no one's looking, now ends up as an "expose." From "Under Cover Boss" that has CEO's pose as a hired hand in order to get the view from the bottom about how their company works to "Restaurant Stakeout," where secret cameras film what none of us want to know about what is really going on in the kitchens of our favorite restaurants, bad behavior is what predominates. Overwhelmingly it seems that if "no one is watching," we are no longer watching out for anyone except ourselves.
Is there any better feeling, for a parent, than to hear how their children conducted themselves when you were not there? What a rush to hear back after your kid spends the night at a friend's, "Oh, your son was so polite." Or after a party you are told, "Your daughter was so great at listening to my grandmother." Or after a special meal, "Your kids were the first ones up to help clear the table." Knowing your kids are practicing what you've preached - even when you are not around - makes every parent feel like they've won a medal.
The truth is we are all children. We all have a parent watching out for us and over us and encouraging us to behave in a certain way. All the time. Are you behaving as your Father taught - as the Son taught - even when you think no one is "watching?" Or are you guilty of "behaving badly" because you believe the "camera" is off?
We all know from the Genesis story of Abraham and Sarah's shared meal with some passing strangers that we might at any time be "entertaining angels unawares." But the directive from 1 John in this week's epistle text takes that mandate a step further. It is, in fact, sometimes much easier to extend hospitality and help to a stranger than it is to the neighbor we know, the "brother or sister" we see every day and know who they are and from where they come...
How Would the Good Shepherd Look Now?
Those of you who are familiar with art may recall a funny habit which many Medieval painters practiced for quite a long time in Europe, and particularly in Germany. Artists such as Lukas Cranach and others painted many depictions of biblical scenes but they did so with the curious twist of dressing the biblical characters in the contemporary garb of the Middle Ages. So in one Cranach painting of which I have a copy, you see Mary and Joseph tending to their newborn son in a Bethlehem stable. You also see shepherds and others in the picture but every last one of them looks like a then-contemporary European. The men are wearing tights, silk shirts with puffy sleeves, and those big hats common to that era. All in all it was an interesting way to contemporize ancient stories.
But that mixing up of the old with the new and the past with the current must also have caused some eyebrows to be raised. Can you imagine what most conservative Christians today would say if some artist painted a portrait depicting Joseph in a pair of Gap jeans, Mary wearing Ralph Lauren blouse, and the magi in snappy suits from Armani?! There would almost surely be an outcry. You should not import the holy, sacred images of Scripture into a contemporary setting like that. It creates confusion, doesn't seem terribly respectful. And anyway we perhaps risk "losing" something of the original presentation by mixing it up with the trappings of our modern world.
But in a real way, can we even avoid looking at the old through the lens of what is current? In this Eastertide lection from the Year B Common Lectionary we arrive at the most famous metaphor for Jesus in the Bible: the good shepherd. We have all likely seen one form or another of this particular image depicted countless times in most of the churches we have ever visited, on greeting cards, in artwork, and in many more places besides.
Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations
_______________________________That's All I Want
A little girl reciting the 23rd Psalm began, "The Lord is my shepherd; that's all I want." Maybe she missed the wording, but she sure got the theology right. To have Jesus as our shepherd is indeed a blessing. As he moves towards the cross, Jesus holds up this model of the good shepherd, reminding his listeners that a good shepherd would lay down his life for the sheep. He would give his life to protect the sheep from thieves, wild animals, or whatever danger might confront the flock. We can give him our allegiance because of his commitment to us.
B. Wiley Stephens, One Life to Give
Humor: I Should Have Taken the Money
The college faculty gathered for their weekly meeting. A professor of archeology brought with him a lamp recently unearthed in the Middle East. It was reported to contain a genie, who, when the lamp was rubbed would appear and grant one wish.
A professor of philosophy was particularly intrigued. He grabbed the lamp and rubbed it vigorously. Suddenly a genie appeared and made him an offer. He could choose one of three rewards: wealth, wisdom, or beauty. Without hesitating, the philosophy professor selected wisdom. "Done!" said the genie and disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
All the other faculty members turned toward the professor, who sat surrounded by a halo of light. At length, one of his colleagues whispered, "Say something. What wise insight do you now have?"
The professor, much wiser now, sighs and says, "I should have taken the money."King Duncan, Collected Sermons, Sermons.com
_________________________________True Abundant Life
One day a man stopped in a convenience store to get a newspaper. He noticed that the owner of the store had tears in his eyes and kept looking out the window. He asked what was going on.
The store owner said, "Do you see that bus bench over there? There's a woman who comes there every day around this time. She sits there for about an hour, knitting and waiting. Buses come and go, but she never gets on one and no one ever gets off for her to meet. The other day, I carried her a cup of coffee and sat with her for a while.
"Her only son lives a long way away. She last saw him two years ago, when he boarded one of the buses right there. He is married now, and she has never met her daughter-in-law or seen their new child. She told me, 'It helps to come here and wait. I pray for them as I knit little things for the baby, and I imagine them in their tiny apartment, saving money to come home. I can't wait to see them.'"
The reason the owner was looking out the window at that particular moment was that the three of them--the son, his wife and their small child--were just getting off the bus. The look on the woman's face when this small family fell into her arms was one of pure joy. And this joy only increased when she looked into the face of her grandchild for the first time. The store owner commented, "I'll never forget that look as long as I live."
The next day the same man returned to the convenience store. The owner was again behind the counter. Before the store owner could say or do anything, the customer said, "You sent her son the money for the bus tickets, didn't you?"
The store owner looked back with eyes full of love and a smile and replied, "Yes, I sent the money." Then he repeated his statement from the day before, "I'll never forget that look as long as I live." This man had discovered a measure of the abundant life.
King Duncan, Collected Sermons, Sermons.com
_____________________________________________I Am the Door
George Adam Smith, the 19th century biblical scholar tells of traveling one day in the holy land and coming across a shepherd and his sheep. He fell into conversation with him and the man showed him the fold into which the sheep were led at night. It consisted of four walls, with a way in. Smith asked him, "This is where they go at night?" "Yes," said the shepherd, "and when they are in there, they are perfectly safe." "but there is no door," said Smith. "I am the door," said the shepherd. He was not a Christian man and wasn't speaking in the language of the New Testament. He was speaking from an Arab shepherd's viewpoint. Smith looked and him and asked, "What do you mean you are the door?" "When the light has gone," said the shepherd, "and all the sheep are inside, I lie in that open space, and no sheep ever goes out but across my body, and no wolf comes in unless he crosses my body; I am the door."
George Adam Smith
________________________________Our Master Makes the Difference
As I have moved among men and women from all strata of society as both a lay pastor and as a scientist I have become increasingly aware of one thing. It is the boss, the manager, the Master in people's lives who makes the difference in their destiny.
I have known some of the wealthiest men on this continent intimately, also some of the leading scientists and professional people. Despite their dazzling outward show of success, despite their affluence and their prestige, they remained poor in spirit, shriveled in soul, and unhappy in life. They were joyless people held in the iron grip and heartless ownership of the wrong master.
By way of contrast, I have numerous friends among relatively poor people-people who have known hardship, disaster and the struggle to stay afloat financially. But because they belong to Christ and have recognized Him as Lord and Master of their lives, their owner and manager, they are permeated by a deep, quiet, settled peace that is beautiful to behold.
It is indeed a delight to visit some of these humble homes where men and women are rich in spirit, generous in heart and large of soul. They radiate a serene confidence and quiet joy that surmounts all the tragedies of their time.
They are under God's care and they know it. They have entrusted themselves to Christ's control and found contentment.
Phillip Keller, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Harper, p. 17
____________________Love and Living for Others
Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, "When a chap is in love, he will go out in all kinds of weather to keep an appointment with his beloved. Love can be demanding; in fact, more demanding than law. It has its own imperatives. Think of a mother sitting by the bedside of a sick child through the night, impelled only by love. Nothing is too much trouble for love." Jesus makes it clear as he draws near the cross that his motivation is love. He is choosing to make this sacrifice. He is choosing to be faithful to what God has put before him.
There is a tale that in the first century a man came to Tertullian, a father in the early church. And in trying to justify some compromises the man had felt he had to make, commented, "I have to live, don't I?" to which Tertullian is reported to have said, "Do you?" The challenge is to focus away from self and to others, to ask where our real values are-survival only, or living as to make a difference.
Leo Tolstoy said, "The only certain happiness in life is to live for others." It is when we see the world with a larger level than self. It is when we become concerned with others that we find the depth of God's love for our lives.
Wiley Stephens, One Life to Give
___________________________________________I'm Not the Shepherd
A pastor was taking a group of parishioners on a tour of the Holy Land. He had just read them the parable of the good shepherd and was explaining to them that, as they continued their tour, they would see shepherds on the hillsides just as in Jesus' day. He wanted to impress the group, so he told them what every good pastor tells his people about shepherds. He described how, in the Holy Land, shepherds always lead their sheep, always walking in front to face dangers, always protecting the sheep by going ahead of them. He barely got the last word out when, sure enough, they rounded a corner and saw a man and his sheep on the hillside. There was only one problem: the man wasn't leading the sheep as the good pastor had said...No, he was behind the sheep and seemed to be chasing them. The pastor turned red.
Flabbergasted, he ran over to the fence and said, "I always thought shepherds in this region led their sheep — out in front. And I told my people that a good shepherd never chases his sheep." The man replied, "That's absolutely true... you're absolutely right... but I'm not the shepherd, I'm the butcher!"
Flabbergasted, he ran over to the fence and said, "I always thought shepherds in this region led their sheep — out in front. And I told my people that a good shepherd never chases his sheep." The man replied, "That's absolutely true... you're absolutely right... but I'm not the shepherd, I'm the butcher!"
***********From the Connections:
THE WORD: Jesus’ figure of the Good Shepherd is not an idyllic, serene image. Palestinian shepherds were held absolutely liable for every single sheep entrusted to their care; “good” shepherds, motivated by a sense of responsibility rather than money, considered it a matter of honor to lay down their lives for the sheep in their charge, taking on every kind of wolf, wild beast and bandit in defense of the flock.
While the shepherd/sheep metaphor is well-known throughout Scripture, Jesus’ vow to lay down his life for his sheep is something new. It completes Jesus’ break with the mercenary religious leaders of the Jewish establishment who care little for the flock they have been entrusted to serve.
Christ calls us to the vocation of being “good shepherds”: to seek out and bring back the lost, the scattered and forgotten; to enable people to move beyond their fears and doubts to become fully human; to willingly pay the price for justice and mercy for all members of the “one fold.”
The Gospel image of the Good Shepherd calls us to look beyond our own expectations, needs and fears in order to become “shepherds” of reconciliation, compassion and charity to others.
To be a disciple of Jesus is not to be simply a “hired hand” who acts only to be rewarded; real followers of Jesus realize that every person of the “one fold” possesses the sacred dignity of being children of God and rejoice in knowing that in serving others we serve God. In embracing the Gospel attitude of humility and compassion for the sake of others -- in “laying down our own lives” for others -- our lives will one day be “taken up again” in the Father’s Easter promise.
“A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them . . .
“I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me . . . I will lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:11-18
A rabbi who has prepared many couples for marriage shares the wisdom of his years of experience:
"Think of two married couples. One couple insists that they have never had a serious quarrel in all the years they have been married. They have never spoken a harsh word to each other. Each considers the other his or his best friend in the world. The other couple has lost count of the number of angry, screaming, ashtray-throwing fights they have had. Time and again, they have found themselves wondering if their relationship had a future. But every time they pondered the option of separation, they would peer into the abyss and step back from it. They would remember how much they had shared and realize how much they cared for each other. Which relationship would you think to be stronger, more able to survive an unanticipated downturn or sudden tragedy? I would have more confidence in the second couple, who have been taught by experience how strong the bond between them is."
[Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, Overcoming Life's Disappointments.]
In the work of "shepherding," sometimes we are the shepherd who reaches out to the one lost or in trouble and, at other times, we are the one in distress in need of a shepherd's saving hand. In Christ, we belong to one another; in imitating Christ, our lives are at the service of one another. "Good shepherding" is not dominating or patronizing nor is it for the weak and self-absorbed; "good shepherding" is selfless and generous work that realizes with gratitude that we are sometimes the shepherd and sometimes the struggling and lost. Christ calls each one of us to take on the work of "good shepherding": to bring compassion and healing to the sick, the troubled and abused; to bring back the lost, the scattered and the forgotten; to enable people to move beyond their fears and doubts to embrace the mercy and love of God.
*************Fr. Jude Botelho:
In today's reading we see the power of the Risen Lord, which had transformed Peter, who preaches eloquently and takes on the establishment. Peter was speaking to the elders, the scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, a powerful opposition for an uneducated fisherman, yet he and the other apostles displayed courage and greatness as they confront them head on. "If we are being questioned and asked how this man was healed, let it be known, that this man is standing in good health by the name of Jesus of Nazareth." Peter could have taken the credit for the miracle. Peter has learnt his lesson and knows that if he relies on himself he will fall, but his confidence is in the Lord, who never fails. Peter moves from the immediate fact of the healing, to the thing signified, namely the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In San Salvador on March 24, 1980, an assassin killed Archbishop Oscar Romero with a single shot to the heart while he was saying Mass. Only a few minutes before, Archbishop Romero had finished a hope-filled homily in which he urged the people to serve one another. Since Archbishop Romero was demanding human rights for his people under oppression, he knew that his life was in danger. Still he persisted in speaking out against tyranny and for freedom. He once told newspapermen that even if his enemies killed him, he would rise again among his people. Today, good shepherds who lay down their lives mean husbands and wives who can't do enough for each other to demonstrate their commitment to each other; parents who make countless sacrifices for the good of their children; teachers who spend untold hours instructing the weak students; doctors and nurses who work untiringly to show they care for their patients; employers who share profits with their workers; politicians who unselfishly promote the common good of their voters and parishioners who generously support their parish community.
Albert Cylwicki in 'His Word Resounds'
One of the most beautiful descriptions of God given by Jesus is contained in today's gospel reading where he proclaims: "I am the good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep." Jesus was the visible sign of God's constant care for his people. In our present day set-up the image of the shepherd may be alien to us but in Palestine the shepherd was a common figure in the countryside. The shepherd in Palestine led his flock, he did not drive them as shepherds elsewhere did. The shepherd literally lived with his flock, spent most of the day and night with them. Though there were hundreds of sheep belonging to different shepherds, the shepherd knew his own and his own sheep recognized his voice and followed him to the pastures. The good shepherd cared for the sheep to the point of death. He does not just surrender his life for his sheep, but he gives his life willingly, as He said at the last supper.
Knowing His sheep
One of the memories I have of the home of my birth was a dog we had, called Roxy. We lived on a fairly quiet road, but as the years went by, the number of cars increased. Irrespective of how many passed by, Roxy was quite indifferent. Then suddenly, the ears were at full stretch, up he sprang, and raced at full speed along the road. There was no sign of anything coming, but we all knew that my mother was on her way, driving back from town, and was probably several hundred yards away. With all the cars, this was the sound that Roxy recognized from a distance. By the time he met the car, my mother had rolled down the window on the passenger side, slowed down slightly and with the car still moving, Roxy sprang right into the front seat and accompanied her on the latter part of the journey. I'm sure most of us have known unique relationships between animals and humans.
Jack McArdle in 'And that's the Gospel truth'
A Good Shepherd
After a particularly brilliant concert, Beethoven was in the centre of congratulating friends and admirers, who praised his piano magic. One unusually enthusiastic woman exclaimed: "Oh, sir, if God had only given me the gift of genius!" "It is not genius, madam," replied Beethoven. "Nor magic. All you have to do is practice on your piano eight hours a day for forty years and you'll be as good as I am." We Christians have a leading role to play in redeeming the world, being porters of Jesus the Good Shepherd. That demands strenuous work, persistence and perseverance in doing good. Beethoven was able to perform great things because of his patience and perseverance. Any leadership implies that quality.
Anthony Kolencherry in 'Living the Word'
I know the Psalm, he knows the Shepherd
A group of men sat around debating good and bad memories. As a result of the discussion an impromptu contest began, to test their memories. One young man, with some artistic talent and training in voice production, recited Psalm 23, 'The Lord is my Shepherd.' The rendition was very very effective, and he drew thunderous applause, so he had to recite the Psalm a second and third time. The second 'contestant' was an elderly man, over in the corner. He was rather stooped, and it was difficult to hear every word as he too recited 'The Lord is my Shepherd'. When he was finished, there was total silence in the room. Something strange had happened. Unconsciously, many people felt a sense of inner stirring, and a few began to whisper a quiet prayer. The young man who had recited the Psalm first time around, stood up and explained the different reception to the two recitals of the same Psalm. "I know the Psalm" he said, "but it is obvious that the old man knows the Shepherd".
Jack McArdle in 'And that's the Gospel truth'
Believe in the God of miracles!
"Mom, I need new shoes," Nicky announced as he burst through the door after school. "Miss Bell says it's dangerous to run in the gym with my toe sticking out." I looked down at my son's blue tennies. "You're right, Nicky. It's time for some new tennies, but you'll have to wait until our next pay check...." "But, Mother," Nicky protested, "I can't wear these shoes for gym anymore. Miss Bell said!" I launched into an elaborate discourse on budgeting principles. "So you see, Nicky," I concluded, "that's how Mommy and Daddy spend money. Tennis shoes are not in the budget this time; next time they will be." "Then I'll pray about my shoes," Nicky announced. "I'll tell God I need the money by tomorrow."....When he left for school the next morning, new tennis shoes were still uppermost on his mind. "Can we buy my shoes tonight? You'll get the money today, because I prayed about it." "We'll see, Nicky," I replied as I kissed him goodbye. There wasn't time to explain just then. But the need to explain didn't come; Nicky's answer came instead. "This is long overdue... sorry for the oversight," said the note I received in the mail that afternoon. The enclosed check, payment for an article I'd written long ago and forgotten, was more than enough to pay for Nicky's new shoes. After school, Nicky's blue eyes danced. "See, Mom, I told you it would come. Now can we buy my shoes?" Today Nicky wears new blue-and-gold tennis shoes - poignant reminders of a child's simple trust and of my need to continually relearn what faith is all about.
True Shepherd or hireling
I remember a story of an atheistic journalist who, on one occasion, was visiting a leprosarium run by a group of religious sisters. When he entered a certain ward, he noticed a sister moving from one patient to another, cheerfully attending to each one with a nurturing love that was absolutely admirable. Unable to restrain his curiosity, he walked up to the religious and said, "Sister, I wouldn't do this job even if you gave me a million dollars." The sister smiled and replied, "neither would I my friend," and with that she continued tending to her patients. The journalist was absolutely dumbfounded. There and then he rejected his atheism. To quote his very own words, "A God who can inspire a human being to such dedicated and selfless service, in such revolting circumstances and with such good cheer cannot but be true. I believe in God." Such is the radical difference between a Good Shepherd and a hireling. One does his work because he wants to, the other does it because he has to; one has his heart in it, the other does not.
James Valladares in 'Your Words O Lord, Are Spirit, and They Are Life'
A Good Shepherd lays down his life
Saint Maximilian Kolbe is the patron of families, drug addicts, prisoners, journalists and pro-life movement, and he is known for founding the Immaculate Movement and producing the Knight of the Immaculata magazine. During World War II, Saint Maximilian housed over 3000 Polish refugees at his monastery. He was eventually imprisoned and sent to Auschwitz, where he experienced constant beatings and hard labour. St. Maximilian died in the place of a man with young children, who was chosen by the guards for the firing squad. Saint Kolbe is considered a good shepherd. He laid down his life for his sheep. Today is Good Shepherd Sunday, a good time to pray for the good shepherds as well as the bad ones; and a good time to realize that the Good Shepherd still walks with us.
John Payappally in 'The Table of the Word'May we discover the Risen Lord, our Good Shepherd always caring for us!
The Untold Story of the Titanic’s Catholic Priest Who Went Down Hearing Confessions
Amidst all the tales of chivalry from the Titanic disaster there is one that’s not often told. It is that of Fr. Thomas Byles, the Catholic priest who gave up two spots on a lifeboat in favour of offering spiritual aid to the other victims as they all went down with the “unsinkable” vessel.
A 42-year-old English convert, Fr. Byles was on his way to New York to offer the wedding Mass for his brother William. Reports suggest that he was reciting his breviary on the upper deck when the Titanic struck the iceberg in the twilight hours of Sunday, April 14, 1912.
According to witnesses, as the ship went down the priest helped women and children get into the lifeboats, then heard confessions, gave absolution, and led passengers in reciting the Rosary.
Agnes McCoy, one of the survivors, says that as the great ship sank, Fr. Byles “stood on the deck with Catholics, Protestants and Jews kneeling around him.” “Father Byles was saying the rosary and praying for the repose of the souls of those about to perish,” she told the New York Telegram on April 22, 1912, according to the website devoted to his memory, Fatherbyles.com.
In the words of the priest’s friend Fr. Patrick McKenna, “He twice refused the offer of a place in a boat, saying his duty was to stay on the ship while one soul wanted his ministrations.”
Nearly two weeks after the disaster, The Church Progress in St. Louis, Missouri wrote this moving tribute to the heroic priest: In almost every line that has been written, and in every sentence that has been spoken, there stands boldly out above every other expression a picture of sublime heroism that will be copied into the pages of history. And well it may, for it is deserving of that honor.But when it is, mention should be made of one whom pens and tongues have almost forgotten in their accounts of this awful sea tragedy. Among those who safely reached the land again no one seems to have been aware of his presence on the ship, but we may hope that many who meet him in a blissful eternity will praise God that Father Thomas Byles was there to administer absolution unto them.
Hospitality under fire: seamen recall Aden rescue
As smoke billowed from the streets of Aden following constant Saudi bombardment, two Indian stealth frigates circled the waters a few kilometres from the city. Braving hostile conditions, bad weather, poor visibility, constant bombardment and armed gunmen roaming in boats, INS Tarkash and INS Mumbai would together rescue nearly half the evacuees from Yemen under Indian government’s Operation Raahat. Of the 6,688 Indian and foreign nationals evacuated by the Indian mission, INS Tarkash and INS Mumbai rescued 3,074 persons.
In one incident, a group of AK-47-wielding men threatened to open fire near INS Tarkash, and a man-to-man fight ensued. Even as that happened, onboard the warship, evacuees were served hot meals and cold water, and were nestled in air-conditioned bunks.
On board INS Mumbai, 105 air-conditioned bunks were opened up for the distressed women, elderly and children evacuated from Yemen.
“We ensured that every child got hot milk. We put soft music on the decks, and arranged comedy and music shows for the evacuees. We served them hot meals, steaming snacks, chilled drinks. We wanted them all to feel secure, comfortable,” Commanding Officer, Captain Rajesh Dhankhar, told The Hindu. The crew went out of its way to arrange for these things, even as it faced a constant threat of attacks.
On both vessels, announcements were made in multiple languages, including Arabic, French, Malayalam and English. The medical teams were on their toes, treating cases of severe dehydration, seasickness and trauma.
The tale of each trip to the ports of strife-torn Yemen — shared by captains and crew of the two naval vessels this week — stands testimony to the valour, sensitivity and determination of the Indian Navy.
“The country is proud of you. The Navy is proud of you. You have done an outstanding job in the face of adversity and danger. You have evacuated 1,783 Indians and 1,291 foreign nationals from over 30 countries, and have given an outstanding example of ‘service before self’ ,” Admiral R.K. Dhowan, Chief of the Naval Staff, said, while appreciating his men at the Naval Dockyard here.
The rescue crew recalled stories of traumatised evacuees. “They told us how people were selling arms and ammunition on the streets like vegetables. Even eight or 10-year-old boys had weapons on them,” Captain Dhankhar said. Vijay Dhyani, who handled the sick bay area onboard INS Mumbai, said most of the people felt disoriented in the beginning. “We had to counsel them. When they returned to normal, they expressed tremendous gratitude. An old Indian woman told us how she would sleep peacefully that night as her country had come to her rescue and had served her with the best of food,” he said.
The toughest medical challenges were a Yemeni woman who was 38 weeks and four days pregnant, and a Yemeni man who had fractured his right leg badly. “The lady was dehydrated. We were all very stressed. We immediately administered her medicines, food. Then she became normal. Two hours after we disembarked her at Djibouti, she was delivered of a healthy baby boy, and her husband rushed back to give us the good news. All of us rejoiced,” H.C. Roul, who took care of the catering arrangement, said.Language no barrier
The Yemeni man with a fractured leg sobbed for over two hours and held the hands of the crew who helped him. “We didn’t understand each other’s language. But we knew he felt gratitude towards us. He sobbed like a child for hours as we carried him to safety on a stretcher,” Vijay Dhyani said.
Captain Pradeep Singh, Commanding Officer of INS Tarkash, said he would never forget how Ambassadors of five countries awaited their arrival at Djibouti to thank them for saving the lives of their nationals.