Thursday, July 26, 2012

Shepherds After My Own Heart

Shepherds After My Own Heart

July 27, 2012

Friday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, proclaim it on distant isles, and say: He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together, he guards them as a shepherd his flock.  (Jeremiah 31:10)

(Jesus said to his disciples:) “… The seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” (Matthew 13:23)

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me; he restores my soul. He guides me along right paths for the sake of his name. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me. (Psalms 23:1-4)

It’s not an easy life, being a shepherd. It’s a nomadic existence, with limited interaction with society beyond the other shepherds who work for the same master or, for those who can afford their own sheep, beyond the neighbors with whom shepherding duties may be shared. Shepherds always have to be vigilant about wolves and others that would harm the flock. Then there are the sheep themselves. They tend to follow the leader, without a lot of thought about whether the leader knows where he or she is going, or where they’re bound. They really like feeding time, and can be led at least as easy with a feed bucket as with more aggressive tactics. They’re gregarious animals and like being part of the herd. Sheep have a reputation for being none too bright (though recent studies have found they have some problem-solving skills and are about as smart as cattle).

Is it any wonder, then, that Jesus and the prophets so often used the metaphor of God-as-shepherd? Being a Christian can put us apart from society. We find a certain comfort in community, and in following. And we look to the Lord to feed us and keep us safe. It’s not important, nor is it remotely possible, for us to understand God’s plan, anymore than sheep can add or subtract or diagram a sentence. In some ways, our lives might be easier if we emulated sheep in this matter, and trusted the shepherd to get us fed and where we need to be.

It’s a hard, lonely, aggravating job, being a shepherd. Fortunately, God is up to the task.

Resolve to be more of a sheep in your relationship with God, following His lead without questioning or worrying about what’s ahead.

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