Years ago, I had the wonderful experience of attending a Lenten recollection conducted by then Bishop of Imus Chito Tagle, now Cardinal and Archbishop of Manila. One of the parables he reflected on was the Parable of the Lost Sheep. While it was simple, the insights I obtained were deep and imprinted a lasting memory. Particularly interesting was the thought that the lost sheep was “weak, dull, and rejected”. Probably, the same sheep may have been lost a number of times, yet even if the sheep could be ignored, the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it (perhaps again and again). And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon arrival home, he calls his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep’. (Lk. 15: 4-6)
This Sunday we reflect on the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd who is devoted and faithful guardian of His flock. The fourth Sunday of Easter is known as Good Shepherd Sunday, and it is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. We reflect on the role of the Bishops and Priests as they’re designated to lead, feed, nurture, comfort, correct and protect God’s flock — roles important to Church leaders. The earliest Christians saw Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Today’s Gospel offers us both comfort and great challenge. The comforting message is that when we are part of the flock, nobody can snatch us out of His Father’s hands (Jn. 10:29). The challenge is that Church and lay leaders alike should be good shepherds to those entrusted to their care. “Good” especially refers to being beautiful, faithful, caring, persevering. The Lord is so patient with us despite our weaknesses and fickle-mindedness.
Being a part of the flock is one great blessing. Jesus continues to comfort us, making His presence felt, sometimes in the simplest of ways but always profound in their effect. Jesus’ words are accompanied by peace, grace, and can always be trusted as these are coming from the One who cares for and loves us in every aspect of who we are. Jesus knows us far more deeply and comprehensively than how we even know ourselves.
“For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7: 17)