Today we are reminded of a word we know, – ‘shepherd’. A shepherd is a person who tends, herds, feeds, or guards a flock of sheep. He is connected with sheep, if there is no sheep, the existence of a shepherd is in question. Shepherding is a full time job, a shepherd has to have some basic qualities like knowing the pastures and places of water, methods of guarding and guiding the sheep, some techniques of first aid in view of nursing the sheep etc…
The full responsibility is placed on the shoulders of a shepherd.That’s why he has to know sheep by name. He is the gate for the sheepfold, he has to be alert in not allowing intruders into the sheepfold, at the same time he has to be vigilant in not permitting his own sheep to go out without his knowledge. Yes, in fact, shepherding is not a easy task. A shepherd has to to keep a close eye on his sheep. The qualities I have mentioned above are found in a good shepherd. There are shepherds who are not responsible also.
Jesus today is pictured to us as a good shepherd. He has all the qualities of a good shepherd. He himself revealed that he is the good shepherd. These are the terms that he used in the Gospel include sheepfold, gate, gatekeeper, pasture etc.. Sheep know the voice of their shepherd as well as the smell of the shepherd. The shepherd also knows the voice and the smell of his sheep. Shepherding is not only the job of guiding and guarding the sheep but also travelling with them.
We christians, are called to be good shepherds for our sheep. Our good shepherd is Jesus who knows the smell of his sheep and is ready to live with the smell. Every Christian has to learn and adapt the model of shepherding the sheep.
Smelling, guarding, guiding, nurturing, nursing and journeying with the sheep are the best qualities of a shepherd. His sheep can be the apples of his eyes. A shepherd, after loving his own sheep so much, is ready to be wounded, tortured and killed for them.
Dear friends, for us and for those who are in, responsible posts in guiding the people, today’s Gospel reading is a real challenge. Let’s try our best to become good shepherds.