For He is our God,
and we are the people He shepherds,
the flock He guides. -Ps. 95:7
During a recent vacation in Ireland, we were able to witness a demonstration of sheepherding and the training of their border collie sheep dogs. As David the shepherd and psalm-writer well knew, sheep are very skittish animals, afraid of all predators. Yet sheep are very trusting of their sheepherding masters. The sheep know the unique voice of their master, and his whistle calls that he uses to protect his precious animals. This particular shepherd I met knew all of his sheep by name, how old they each are, their brand, and many other details.
We learned that sheep automatically run away from the sheep dogs because they consider them predators. Likewise, the dogs instinctually know to keep the sheep in between the master and themselves at all times. So when herding the sheep, the dogs just steer the sheep toward the master, following his whistle commands without letting any of them stray. This sheepherder carefully trains each dog himself and gives each one a unique set of whistle commands. He would never steer any of them into trouble with his whistles. The herder lovingly guides both the dogs and the sheep away from any potential storms, predators, and even recently chewed grounds.
It was an impressive show of hundreds of years of tradition being passed down through generations of sheepherders and animals. The dogs and sheep both trust their master and follow his voice commands.
David wrote often about being a shepherd, comparing God to his own role of loving guider of his charges who only wants the best for each of them. David also compared himself to the trusting sheep who know and follow their master’s voice. He understood how important it is as Christians to know our God and follow our Master’s guidance. This we manage to do through prayer, attending Mass and reading God’s Word.
Jesus used this analogy often with His farming followers of Jerusalem, knowing they understood the ways of the shepherd and his sheep. In the Gospel of John Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14). He wanted everyone to know that His loving Father knows each of us, loves us and wants to help and protect us.
Jesus wanted to reassure them that God is our Loving Master who compassionately guides us along the journey of life away from danger and toward goodness. We just need to listen to His commands and gentle nudges. God knows each of us by name, who we really are, what we need and what is best for each of us.
Can we be trusting and obedient to our Lord like the sheep are to their shepherd?
Copyright 2018 Colleen Mallette