Fourth Sunday of Easter
The image of the Good Shepherd is one that makes me scratch my head and wonder, “How I can be in touch with an image of Jesus that is so foreign to my life?” And then I remember, my cousins in Ireland are sheep ranchers and the image of my cousin walking slowly and gently toward an ewe that had gotten out of the field comes to mind.
I was walking the ranch with my cousin when he noticed the ewe in an unprotected field. He quickly went from telling jokes and humorous family stories to quiet, focused, and deliberate in his movements. “Stay here,” was the command. He began a soft song-like murmuring, clasped his hands behind his back, and walked slowly around the ewe until it could hear his murmuring and then he stood still and let the ewe come to him. The ewe went from alert to relaxed and as my cousin walked away the ewe went with him. It was an amazing dance of knowing and recognizing. It was a moment of quieting into stillness. It was a moment of connection that enabled the shepherd to easily lead, the ewe to willingly follow.
My cousin later shared that he could have called the dogs to chase her back into the enclosed fields, or his son with a scooter to do the same, or moved the ewe back by running at her and roping her. All these options would have been quicker. He chose the “old way” because it was a chance to strengthen the relationship with this sheep…it honored him, the ewe, and the relationship of shepherd and flock.
It was mesmerizing to witness…
So, is this the kind of relationship that the Good Shepherd offers? YES! We are known, understood, sought after, and protected by the one who sees us fully and approaches in a way that helps us to go from alert to relaxed, quiet to still, and wandering to being led. Jesus the Christ is unwavering in his presence with us, immovable in his commitment to us, unconditional in his love for us. There is in Jesus the unending invitation to deepen our knowing, to be freed in our following, and to truer trusting the imperishable safety of God’s presence within and among us.
The Good Shepherd image poses challenges for us. Can we pay attention and respond, listen with every fiber of our being and yield, step out in faith and be animated with God’s life in us? Call and response is how the sheep knows to whom it belongs. It is how we know to whom we belong. We do not issue the call; we respond to it. Be watchful, be attentive, be still, be engaged, be active, be accepting, be questioning, be daring, be what you are in the moment…for in that space the Good Shepherd will find you, be with you, and bring you into the more.
May each of us remain faithful to the grace of God. May we continue to welcome the call of the Good Shepherd into our lives. May we become more sensitive and responsive to the love of God. May we live each day bringing forth the mercy and compassion of God…
Sr. Didi Madden, OP