Today’s Gospel: Mark 6:30-34
Optional Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The metaphor of the Good Shepherd is woven throughout the readings today. The psalmist tells us that the Lord is a shepherd who inspires confidence (“I shall not want”), and who kindly offers refreshment and encouragement. Does a shepherd do this for his sheep? The depiction of Jesus carrying a lamb upon his shoulders is a familiar one, but what does it mean to us today? We don’t have much experience with shepherds. One contemporary traveler recounted how he came upon a lost sheep while hiking in the mountains. He walked along, wondering what to do and in a few minutes he was very glad to see the shepherd with the rest of his flock. “Look,” he said, “one of your sheep is nearby and needs your help.” The man replied in matter-of-fact way, “It’s just a loss we assume as part of the expense of doing business. I can’t risk all these animals while I go hunting for that one.” Apparently most shepherds today would not leave the 99 and go hunting for the lost sheep!
Jesus’ teachings express values that are the opposite of the rational calculations of the world in order to express that God deals with us in a very different manner. My ways are not your ways, and as far as the heavens are above the earth, so are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.
The Lord shepherds us with a caring above and beyond that of a literal shepherd. But the image helps us imagine the reality of our own vulnerability without God’s care. If, for example, we were to strike out on our own and depend completely on our own strength, we would open ourselves up to getting quite lost and to other dangers. When the Lord sees us living without his guidance and care, his heart is filled with pity, for we are like sheep without a shepherd. We wander, not knowing where the best grass may be found or where true dangers lurk, or even how to find water.
As domestic animals need handlers, unlike wild animals who must fend for themselves, so we need God’s light and grace from above to live well. Yet, when we stay close to Christ and keep our hearts resting near his heart, we should not fear anything. As he himself said, “Fear is useless!” When we place our trust in the Good Shepherd we can indeed be confident, knowing he cares for us like no other can, and that he will one day lead us to the still waters of Eternal Life.
Lord, you are the one who knows better than anyone what I need. Give me the grace to be still and know that you are God, so that I may rest in your caring embrace. Amen.
How often do I resist letting God be my guide, demanding that things happen the way I prefer and getting irritated when they do not? Can I learn to “let go and let God”?
We thank our friends at The Word Among Us for providing our gospel reflection team with copies of Abide In My Word 2015: Mass Readings at Your Fingertips. To pray the daily gospels with this wonderful resource, visit The Word Among Us.
Copyright 2015 Julie Paavola