Years ago, Dave and I journeyed to the Isle of Skye in Scotland. In my travel journal I write: “Skye is beautiful. It is quite mountainous with a lot of barren, boggy areas, and the tide goes in and out at the little inlets. Sheep are EVERYWHERE. They don’t have fences on Skye, so sheep go wherever they feel like it.” We didn’t see any shepherds, but we assumed they were in the background.
We humans wander beyond fences, too. We can be lost and without hope. But even when we can’t see or sense his presence, Jesus, our good shepherd, is with us. We need to trust that he will find and heal us.
We are “children of God.” It says in 1 John: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” Perhaps we will see Jesus tenderly holding a lamb, an image of the reality and intimacy of God’s love for us.
Peter and John talked to people about Jesus’ resurrection. Peter, in the name of Jesus, had healed a man who had been lame from birth. Consequently, they were arrested. Peter then says: “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you . . . that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead.
“This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’ ” Peter continues: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among human beings by which we must be saved.” Peter emphasizes that salvation comes through Jesus Christ.
Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, writes in Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi: “Many Christians considered Christ to be Jesus’ last name instead of realizing it was the description of his cosmic role in history and arguably in all world religions. I fully believe that there has never been a single soul that has not been possessed by the Christ, even in the ages before the human Incarnation in Jesus.” Rohr says the name “Jesus” refers to a person who was born in time and in a particular culture. But his title of “Christ” refers to his role in salvation beyond time. As Christ, Jesus is the good shepherd who saves those born before his time — even though they didn’t see or sense his presence. Otherwise much of humanity would be excluded from the embrace of “the Christ.” Rohr says humanity needs both, Jesus and Christ.
Indeed, Jesus is our good shepherd. He lays down his life for us. And he says, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” Ecumenical efforts to bring various religions together echo this statement.
The Workbook for Lectors and Gospel Readers 2006 states: “The dark image of the passage is the ‘wolf,’ which you might imagine as the ‘big, bad wolf’ of children’s stories. This metaphorical wolf is present in the church in every age, for there are always issues that weigh on the church and impede our appreciation of God’s everlasting love.” Human beings are sinful entities, whether in the church or beyond. Our church is wounded, like we are.
My travel journal continues: “The sheep along the way never cease to amaze us! We stopped at Dunveggan Farm (50 miles from Inverness) for bed and breakfast; when we drove up the driveway we noticed a flock of sheep in a field across the road racing toward one gate. A few of the sheep had become choice pets. Their baaing noises were all different for each individual.” Indeed, we are like sheep!
Barbara d’Artois writes in Living with Christ: “Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel, ‘I am the good shepherd,’ take me back to childhood days, when pictures of Jesus gently holding a little ‘found’ lamb adorned classroom walls. That image has stayed with me . . . As part of Jesus’ flock, I feel enfolded in his love . . . I think of times when I was lost and Jesus found me — and of the wonder of our reconciliations!”
Many times in this life we can be lost. But Jesus, the good shepherd, finds us again and again. We might continue to be humble; to offer our life’s journey to Jesus the Christ through deepening encounters with other people — and even sheep!
Strachan is married with three grown children and lives in Nakusp, B.C. She is a Benedictine Oblate with St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster, Sask., and a member of the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild.