4th Sunday of Easter
April 19, 2018 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
Good Shepherd Sunday
On an early morning in Israel I sat atop a little hill reading the scriptures and pondering some of the new meanings coming from actually walking the land that Jesus walked. A slight movement on the gentle slope across the valley from the hill where I was caught my attention. I only caught it out of the corner of my eye, my peripheral vision. But when I looked up from the bible to catch sight of what had moved I didn’t notice anything. Then as I returned to my reading, it happened again. This time I gave a longer look and I became aware of some slight movement on the far distant slope. I watched more intently. Gradually it became clear to me that a flock of sheep were slowly moving up the hill. I would notice a scurried movement at the front of the flock and then something similar at the back of the flock. My watching became a studied observation. I gradually discerned that in the midst of the flock was a shepherd. I noticed his arm move in one direction and then another. Finally I deciphered that he was throwing little pebbles, to the front of the sheep that were leading the flock to make sure they did not get too far ahead. As he cast a stone up ahead of them, they would slow and then stop. Then he would cast a pebble to the back of the sheep, bringing up the rear, to speed them up a little. Gradually and consistently the flock progressed together up the hill.
“I am the Good Shepherd.” The words sounded in my ears. I reflected that in a way the Good Shepherd has dealt with me in this gentle and loving way. I also thought it was significant that the shepherd was leading from the midst of the flock. On top of these thoughts I also remembered an experience of Gandhi’s that I had read about. While on march with some of his followers Gandhi had stopped to talk with some people at the side of the road. But then looking ahead he saw that the people journeying with him had moved on ahead of him. He said: “There go my people I must hurry and catch up for I am their leader.”
Sometimes this Sunday falls on the same day as Mother’s Day. We have a popular church song, which says, “Like a shepherd he feeds his flock and gathers the lambs in his arms, holding them carefully close to his heart, leading them home.” A friend of mine who works in the mountains of Peru told me that most of the shepherds there are women. The song almost works better with these words, “Like a shepherd she feeds her flock and gathers the lambs in her arms, holding them carefully close to her heart, leading them home.” Good shepherding is done for us by Jesus and by his followers. We are called to be Good Shepherds to one another.
We must also be conscious that some people masquerade as good shepherds but are really thieves and robbers. Sadly we are experiencing this of some priests throughout the world. We must pray for the victims and work to Protect God’s children. We must also pray for these priests. We must pray for our Church that we deal better with these thieves and robbers. Pope Francis met with much turmoil on his visit to Chile. He defended a bishop saying that those who were critical of his appointment to a diocese were committing “Calumny.” When he returned to Rome (even on the plane ride returning) Pope Francis took a less dogmatic tone. He sent a Bishop, (well known for his work concerning sexual abuse accusations) to conduct in depth examinations. When the pope read the report he took a completely different position. He confessed he had made a terrible mistake and asked forgiveness from the victims. He wrote a letter to the Chilean bishops expressing that he had been badly advised. He also scheduled a visit of all the Chilean bishops to come to Rome. Pope Francis impressed us when he went to confession before hearing confessions. Now he surely has set an example for us. When we make a mistake or even a terrible blunder, can we admit our mistake and ask for forgiveness? To me it is no coincidence that Pope Francis said that humiliation and humility are connected.
This Sunday let us reflect on how the Good Shepherd has dealt with us. When has he had to slow us down, when has he tried to speed us up? Who have been the people that have exercised the Shepherding role for me? How do I exercise my call to Shepherd others? Do I have the true humility that Pope Francis has demonstrated to own his mistake and ask for forgiveness and try to find ways to remedy the situation?