Lost and Found
by Msgr. Stanley Krempa
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
Jesus said: "I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father."
In our high-tech society, the Gospel for this fourth Sunday of Easter gives us an agricultural focus in the image of the Good Shepherd. This is a familiar Gospel that we have heard many times before. For the priest or bishop, it is a challenging Gospel because it calls us to examine what kind of shepherds we are. That is a good and healthy thing for church leaders to do. Some parishioners regularly analyze the quality of shepherding they are receiving.
In a homily on this Gospel, Pope St. Gregory acknowledges the high standard to which the Lord holds church leaders, but then Pope Gregory pivots, turns it around and raises a different question. He asks the people, "What kind of sheep are you?" What is your relationship to the flock of Christ? That's a searching question for all of us. There are similarities between us and sheep.
First, we are vulnerable to the wolves of life. We are vulnerable to death, disease and accidents. We can see that in the homemade crosses that dot our highways indicating the spot where a loved one died. So much in our life can change in a matter of minutes. We are vulnerable to the wolves of life that come in many shapes. We need strength beyond ourselves for whatever comes.
Secondly, sheep have a strong herd instinct. They say that if one sheep goes over a cliff, the others tend to follow. Whether that is true or not, we are like that to some degree. Despite the rhetoric about our "rugged individualism," we want to fit in. We are influenced deeply by the fashions of the day (we can verify that by looking at our high school yearbook photo). We follow the latest fads and watch the latest movies. When we hear a speech on television, we wait to see what our favorite commentator says about it, so we will know what to think.
Advertising appeals to this herd instinct to show us what is “in" and what is “out.” There is also a herd mentality when it comes to morality. Whether it is abortion, violence, greed or lust. If others do it, we think it’s OK. We need a source of right and wrong beyond what the crowd thinks.
Thirdly, sheep wander from the flock. They do not have a strong homing instinct. Someone has to find the lost sheep and bring it back. So it is with us. We drift from the Lord slowly and gradually. We need someone to bring us back when we wander.
We need a good shepherd in our life who will help us deal with the wolves of life, who will guide us as to what is right and wrong, and who will lead us back when we get lost. That shepherd is the Lord Jesus.
He is among us in many ways but most powerfully through the sacramental life, the people and the living tradition of the church. The Easter season is a time for us to rejoin the flock of Christ, the church. Here we listen to Christ's teaching, here we receive strength and grace for dealing with the difficult moments in our life, here we have a path to our eternal home with Christ.
We are not baptized to be lone rangers, righting wrongs all by ourselves. We are called to be members of the church supported by Christ's truth and grace, knowing that the work of Christ will continue even when we have passed on. Good Shepherd Sunday is for all of us. Are we good shepherds? Are we good members of the flock?
If you feel like a lost sheep, then let yourself be found. The Good Shepherd is looking for you.