Shepherd, Sheep, Salvation
Shepherd, Sheep, Salvation. In the Gospel, Jesus is the shepherd, but not any ordinary shepherd, He is the Good Shepherd. What does a shepherd do? I read an article with this title: “The Job Description of a Shepherd” by Marjorie Kinnee. She wrote: (a) A shepherd provides the basics; food, water, shelter, and protection. He knows what food is best for his flock in every season and where to find it. (b) The shepherd is first responsible to the owner of the sheep. The owner has the master plan for the flock. The shepherd is entrusted with the details; additions to and subtractions from the flock, the time and place for fleecing and wool sales. (c) Foresees Danger – The shepherd trains the flock to know and follow his voice. This is his first line of defense. To wayward sheep, he administers discipline and takes preventative measures to correct. (d) Oversees – The flock is the focus of the shepherd. He sets the pace, aware of the particular needs of each sheep. There are ewes. – heavy with new life, lambs – inexperienced and frisky, young rams – stubborn and territorial (always pushing), the aged and sickly – those needing extra attention, and the wayward – who oppose everything (even their own best interests). Towards the end of the article the author wrote: “Whether his flock is few or thousands, his responsibilities never let up. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, year in and year out; the shepherd cares and shares the life of the sheep. It is a lonely occupation. He must be gentle, but he must also be confident, resourceful, and decisive. He dares not be nervous or flighty if the flock is to flourish… Seeing all this, who would apply for such a job?” To answer her question, we can say that Jesus lived it and did all of those in His lifetime. He is indeed the Good Shepherd.
The sheep. They also possess some characteristics. The sheep’s most manifest instinct is to flock. Sheep like to be together. Most animals, if left free to roam, will scatter. But if sheep are left to themselves, they’ll stay together. They’re gregarious. The protection of the flock comes from staying close together. Another characteristic is that the sheep tends to follow other sheep. This can be a problem. It’s best to follow only the shepherd but at times they follow wrongly. Another distinct characteristic of the sheep is being instinctively fearful. They are afraid of the unknown, of darkness, and of strange pastures and buildings. That keeps them appreciative of the shepherd and his helpers. It keeps them together for their mutual support and comfort. With these background, we can have a glimpse of what and who our Lord Jesus meant with the sheep and their tendency to get lost despite being in a flock. In this sense, we are the sheep with Him as our Good Shepherd.
Salvation is derived from the Latin word ‘salvare’ which means to save or to lead into safety. This is what the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ Himself, is offering to the sheep. “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it. And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy.” This is what our Lord is offering to us all with his passion, death, and resurrection. He is offering us salvation and the promised heaven: “in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”
Beloved brothers and sisters, the parable of the Good Shepherd and the Lost Sheep most often leaves us confused and questioning: Who in his right mind would abandon ninety-nine sheep in the wild to go search and for the missing one? But maybe the reason why it is difficult for us to understand this parable is that we miss the point of Jesus. This is the Good News presented through the parable – it is God’s joy to go out His way to search for each one of us. He searches until He finds each of the lost. The truth is that many times we are not one of the ninety-nine waiting for the return of the lost one but we are that lost sheep crying out loudly in order to be found. And when we are found, we rest in the loving arms of the Good Shepherd.
Disclaimer: This section of the website is a personal creative writing of the author and does not necessarily reflect the official views, opinion, or policies of the Salesians of Don Bosco – Philippines South Province. For concerns on the content, style, and grammar of this piece, please contact us.