Rev. Stanley M. Moczydlowski, M.B.A., M. Div. (Fr. Stan)
April 21/22, 2018
4th Sunday of Easter
The image that John places before us in the Gospel is quite familiar to us. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the one who was and is willing to lay down his life for his sheep. And Jesus draws a crucial distinction between shepherds and people who are simply hired by the shepherd. The hired man puts clear limits on what he will or will not do. He is somewhat committed, but only up to a point only in a limited and conditional way, and then all bets are off. Jesus uses the dramatic example of a hired man fleeing from a wolf rather than standing his ground and defending the sheep to illustrate the point he is trying to make.
Jesus, of course, is saying that he is nothing like the man he is describing. He has a unique bond with his flock, a unique commitment. Jesus as shepherd is ‘all in’, fully invested, fully ready to protect what is his, no matter what. The hired hand helps the shepherd because there is something in it for him. On the other hand, the good shepherd cares for his flock for much deeper and unselfish reasons. There is a one-of-a-kind connection there that doesn’t exist for the man who is simply being paid to help out. Jesus loves his flock because that is who he is. There is nothing he won’t do to keep us safe, to keep us close to him. And there is nothing we, the sheep, can do or ever do to change that.
Naturally, we are deeply grateful that our God loves us so much. We want and need a Good Shepherd. Without a shepherd we would be lost, meandering through this life without direction or purpose, completely at the mercy of whatever comes our way.
If only that were the whole story, things would be so much simpler. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and we are the sheep. Of course, that is not where the story ends. Jesus calls us to live lives in imitation of him. To try to live as he lived, think as he thought, see as he saw; to do our best to embrace all he was about, all that he stood for, all that he strove to accomplish. And that means one thing: We too are called to be shepherds in our own little corners of the world, to all the people God places in our paths. And that’s where the challenge begins.
Many of us, myself included, are often more like the hired hand in the story. We want to help God, but only so much. We want to follow him, but only so far. We want to love and forgive and be generous, but in a limited way, on our terms and usually when there is a little something in it for ourselves. Too often the wolf, that is a challenge of some sort, comes our way and we choose to back off from living the profound love that God invites us to.
And so, we give thanks to Jesus for being our Good Shepherd. And we pray for the grace to not simply be a hired hand when it comes to discipleship, when it comes to following the Lord, when it comes to placing our trust in him. Rather, let us strive to love one another and God in a more unconditional way, in a much more committed way, in a more complete way. Do we do what we do for God simply because we are being paid with the promise of eternal life? Or do we do what we do out of love? That is something to think about.
God bless you,