Spiritual Life

The Good Shepherd has a lively relationship with his sheep

The Fourth Sunday of Easter is unofficially called Good Shepherd Sunday. Each year we hear readings that open us to the image of Christ as our Shepherd. This image, given to us by Christ himself, is a good way to understand him and ourselves in relationship to him.

We can easily shortchange this image if we are not careful. We can think of the Good Shepherd as a way of showing us how loving Jesus is, how he watches over us, and tends us like sheep – all correct.

But there is a fuller meaning to be had than a merely sentimental idea of a Good Shepherd. This is an active image of a lively, back-and-forth relationship between the Lord and us. The Good Shepherd does not just look at us with love from afar; he lives with us, his sheep, as he guides us. He calls to us, and he expects us to listen and respond.

It is really that call, the voice of the Shepherd, which is paramount in this dynamic image of our Lord. The Shepherd actively calls us to an abundant life for God’s glory and our own benefit. He calls each one of us to a unique path of goodness in the Kingdom. When we follow the voice of the Shepherd, when we get up and go because he has called us, there are never any dead ends.

There is a lot of noise around us, so many voices vying for our attention. Our own voice of independence might be the loudest of all. Discerning his voice and what he is saying to us above the din of this world is a challenge, but if we stay close to the Scriptures, the sacraments, daily prayer and charity, we will hear his call leading us to the fullness of life.

He does his part – he is the Good Shepherd: he knows us, loves us and calls to us. For our part we must work to set aside distractions and obstinacy in order to hear and trust the voice of the Shepherd. We need to become the docile sheep who listen for his voice and follow everywhere he tells us to go.