How does Jesus describe the qualities of a Good Shepherd?
He knows his sheep, he protects then from the wolf, he is prepared to lay down his life for them.
But would we really be prepared to give our lives for a sheep?
In the context of the Gospel reading, this word that Jesus uses, ‘good’, describes the difference between the able person and the one who chooses to give love and service. Jesus is not talking about one occupation, although the image of a shepherd makes us think of pastoral care.
Jesus is speaking about an attitude which should be an essential part of life for those who follow His teaching.
Of course, we know that Jesus is speaking of Himself as the shepherd, and the Church as His sheep; you and I. We are the ones who get lost, who run into danger, and who become scattered.
First, there is a message to the Church in this. We must try and avoid losing contact with our master. We must try and keep together, rather than fragment our church into little groups that need to be brought into one flock.
We must recognise the gifts that the good shepherd displays, the pastoral gifts that we are called to show.
Pastoral care springs from our faith in a loving, caring God. It’s all our responsibility, not just the Priest in Charge. We are all called to share in the shepherding of the flock.
That is why our Pastoral Assistants are so valuable to a community, they are there to share the load of pastoral care that we are all called to undertake.
There is a second message for us all in the Gospel reading. Each day we are called to be ‘good’ as well as competent; what does that mean?
It means that we have an extra responsibility that demands the commitment shown by the Good Shepherd; care for those around us, not just those who come to church. We need to show willingness to engage, go the extra mile and, above all, show integrity in the way we behave as people of faith.
If you read carefully you will see that there is a third message for us too. A message for us in our homes; it’s at home where we may find that we are impatient and intolerant, where we acknowledge that we are tired, and let our behaviour show it.
The good shepherd must return home at the end of the day; Jesus certainly wouldn’t suggest that he then forget his principles and cease to care for others, to drop his attitude of care and love.
Those who follow the teaching of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, work and live with grace.
These are virtues that we can show in our church, in our daily work and in our home. In each of these places we see the need for the grace of God.
All of us who try to follow Christ are taught that we need to have, in every part of our lives, the qualities of the Good Shepherd.