The Good Shepherd
Presence of God – I come to You, O Jesus, my Good Shepherd; lead me to the pastures of eternal life.
The liturgy today sums up in the gentle figure of the Good Shepherd all that Jesus has done for our souls.
The shepherd is everything to his flock; their life, their sustenance, and their care is entirely in his hands, and if the shepherd is good, they will have nothing to fear under his protection, and they will want for nothing.
Jesus is preeminently the Good Shepherd: He not only loves, feeds, and guards His sheep, but He also gives them life at the cost of His own. In the mystery of the Incarnation, the Son of God comes to earth in search of men who, like stray sheep, have wandered away from the sheepfold and have become lost in the dark valley of sin. He comes as a most loving Shepherd who, in order to take better care of His flock, is not afraid to share their lot. [1 Peter 2:21-25] shows Him to us as He takes our sins upon Himself that He may heal us by His Passion: “Who His own self bore our sins in His Body upon the tree that we, being dead to sin, should live to justice; by whose stripes you were healed. For you were as sheep going astray; but you are now converted to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Peter 2:24-25). Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd, and I give my life for my sheep” and in the Office for Paschal time, the Church chants many times: “The Good Shepherd is risen, He who gave His life for His sheep and who died for His flock.” What could be a better synthesis of the whole work of the Redemption? It seems still more wonderful when we hear Jesus declare: “I am come that they may have life and may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). In truth, He could well repeat to each one of us: “What more could I have done for you that I have not done?” (cf. Isaiah 5:4). Oh, would that our generosity in giving ourselves to Him had no limits, after the pattern of His own liberality in giving Himself to us!
“O Lord, You are my Shepherd, I shall not want; You make me lie down in green pastures, You lead me to the water of refreshment, You convert my soul and lead me on the paths of justice. Even though I walk in the ravines, in the dark valleys, I shall fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff are my comfort. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup runs over” (cf. Psalm 23). O Lord, my Good Shepherd, what more could You have done for me that You have not done? What could You have given to me that You have not given? You willed to be my food and drink. What more delightful and salutary, nourishing and strengthening pasture could You have found than Your own Body and Blood?
“O good Lord Jesus Christ, my sweet Shepherd, what return shall I make to You for all that You have given me? What shall I give You in exchange for Your gift of Yourself to me? Even if I could give myself to You a thousand times, it would still be nothing, since I am nothing in comparison with You. You, so great, have loved me so much and so gratuitously, I who am so small, so wicked and ungrateful! I know, O Lord, that Your love tends toward the immense, the infinite, because You are immense and infinite. Please tell me, O Lord, how I ought to love You.
“My love, O Lord, is not gratuitous, it is owed to You…. Although I cannot love You as much as I should, You accept my weak love. I can love You more when You condescend to increase my virtue, but I can never give You what You deserve. Give me then, Your most ardent love by which, with Your grace, I shall love You, please You, serve You, and fulfill Your commands. May I never be separated from You, either in time or in eternity, but abide, united to You in love, forever and ever” (Ven. R. Jourdain).
Editor’s Note: Good Shepherd Sunday (today) also, appropriately, marks the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. You can learn more by clicking here. To learn about the Avila Foundation’s “High Calling” program for the formation of seminarians, and what you can do to support them, please kindly click here.
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Art for this post on the Good Shepherd: Partial restoration detail of Ansichtskarte zum Gedenken an den Jugendsonntag in Ravensburg Motiv: Guter Hirte (Postcard commemorating youth Sunday in Ravensburg, subject Good Shepherd), Gebhard Fugel (1863-1939), 1920s?, PD-US author’s life plus 75 years or less, Wikimedia Commons; Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.