Are you willing to be led by the shepherd?
A flock of sheep can be startled and scatter without thinking about the consequences; when they are isolated, they freeze in place. The sheep then need a shepherd to bring them back – the shepherd’s voice refocuses them, bringing their attention back to what is important. In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter calls upon the house of Israel to repent, to change direction, to turn back to God, to focus on what God is revealing to them. To repent is to allow themselves to be led by the Lord as their shepherd following the model of Psalm 23: beside restful waters he leads me. The psalmist David, who is himself priest-king and shepherd of his people, lets the Lord his shepherd guide him in right paths; he takes comfort in knowing that the Lord is always at his side.
David’s is a lesson the Pharisees of Jesus’ time seem to have forgotten. In John's Gospel, although they are supposed to be the shepherds of the people, they have led their flock astray; their sheep will not follow them because sheep do not recognize the voice of strangers, but rather only the voice of the true shepherd, Jesus himself. In a related image, Jesus likens himself to the gate: whoever enters through me will be saved, will have life and have it more abundantly. The Pharisees are not willing to enter through Jesus; they refuse to see in him the shepherd come to guide them to God.
As the First Letter of Peter reminds us, we all tend to wander from those right paths described in Psalm 23: you go astray like sheep, he says. But Christ asks that we follow in his footsteps. Jesus taught us through his death what love demands of us; so long as we allow Christ’s path to guide us, so long as we turn back to him and respond always from a place of love, we can return to the shepherd and guardian of our souls, dwelling where the Lord is, in love itself. Only then can we have life more abundantly, joyful, fully aware that life is a gift, and rejoicing in that gift that is love.
This post is based on Fr. Pat’s Scripture class.
Image source: www.wordclouds.com