In the Church today is Good Shepherd Sunday. In the Gospel Jesus uses the image of a shepherd to describe his care for us. He is the Shepherd who risked everything for us have the best possible relationship with God.

At this time of year lambs are gambolling in the fields while their mother ewes keep close by. Although most lambs and sheep look alike to us, to a shepherd in first century Palestine no two sheep in his small flock were. He and they would know each other so well that when he called, they responded in trust and followed where he led. (Shepherds in the Middle East walked ahead of their sheep, unlike here where sheep are driven from behind.)

Several times in the Gospels Jesus uses this image of the Palestinian shepherd to describe his own relationship with us, the sheep of his ‘flock’. He cares for us, he says, as a devoted shepherd cares for his sheep. Furthermore, he says he is a ‘good’ shepherd, unlike the leaders or shepherds of Judaism who, in his eyes, consistently failed God’s people. Unlike them, he will not lead us astray or allow anyone to take us away from him. He will risk his life to protect us.

In today’s Gospel Jesus says he knows us personally. ‘I know my own and my own know me’. We are not all the same to him. I am not just a name or a number in a vast worldwide flock: I am known by him and special to him, having originally been placed in his care by God the Father.

He asks us to ‘listen’ to his ‘voice’. In our world today this is not easy; it can be quite a struggle when there are so many other competing voices demanding our attention and loyalty. They offer all kinds of enticements, promises and rewards for a ‘better’ life but, in truth, most in my experience want our money.

In our fractured world, torn apart by war and poverty, what ‘voice’ can we safely ‘listen’ to and follow in the knowledge that we will not be ripped off or have our trust shattered? In recent years many state and other institutions, including the Church, have proved to be flawed and guilty of abusing their power over us. So in whom or what can we confidently place our trust? In today’s Mass Our Lord asks us to place our trust in him, to listen to his voice above all others, knowing that he will not rip us off or betray us. He is, as he reminds us, the shepherd who laid down his life for his ‘sheep’.

Amongst our prayers today we remember all who are laying down their lives for others, as the Good Shepherd laid down his life for us. We pray especially for those who are caring for the sick, including sick children; those caring for people with disabilities, old age and those who are terminally ill. May the Good Shepherd renew and fill them with energy and love.

Michael Campion
Holy Name, Jesmond

7/8 May 2022

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