The Church celebrates Good Shepherd Sunday. Jesus gives Himself this name and explains that He will lay down His life for His sheep. We celebrate this fact every time we worship God in the Holy Mass, but especially during this Easter Season when we recall in a special way His Paschal Mystery.
Jesus had sacrificed Himself so we can have eternal life. He states in the Gospel today that He has the power to lay down His life and the power to take it up again. These are statements of belief we celebrate and we worship God because of His great love and power. Imagining that the all-powerful God would lower Himself to become man and then sacrifice Himself for us is a difficult thing for us to grasp. This is because we are often unwilling to sacrifice on God’s behalf. As a society we tend to avoid sacrifice at all costs, rather seek pleasure and a pain free existence. God’s ways are hard for us to understand because of our human frailties. We struggle to understand who God is, how much He loves us, and why He would suffer for us.
We forget that Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, will guide and protect us every day of our lives. Shepherds are often shown with a staff which was used to nudge the sheep in the direction the shepherd desired the flock to move. The staff also is shown with a hook which could be used to gather sheep by wrapping it around its neck and pulling it. Jesus uses His staff to guide us as well, gently nudging us in the direction He desires for us and using the hook to save us when we have gone astray. Sometimes we don’t want to obey and try to avoid His staff thinking we know better. Perhaps the direction Jesus is leading us involves some sacrifice, if so, embrace it and use this sacrifice for the salvation of souls by offering any pain to Him for this purpose.
We like to think we all know the proper direction for our lives and don’t need to be guided by anyone. This is a rather arrogant attitude that all too often leads us into trouble. So, welcome the gentle nudge of Jesus and acknowledge how much you need the Good Shepherd.