Feast Day Reflection by Sister Angele Lewis, SNDdeN
Today’s liturgical readings mark a shift from Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to selections that feature the teachings of Jesus on discipleship. This Vigil of the Ascension identifies us as SHEEP and Jesus as our GOOD SHEPHERD.
I do not know about you, but I have very little experience with sheep. So I sent a message on “Google” for information on SHEEP. I found the following characteristics: foolish, slow to learn, unattractive, demanding, stubborn, strong, straying, unpredictable, restless, dependent and the same worldwide. I do not like being compared to sheep, even if Jesus is the shepherd! However, after pondering further, I have to admit that I have been guilty of “sheep-ness” probably more times than I care to admit. And I doubt if I am alone in having some characteristics like sheep.
Since in many ways we “sheep” are also called to be SHEPHERDS, I continued my “Google” research. A shepherd is patient with his sheep, knows his sheep, values his sheep, loves his sheep, feeds his sheep, leads his sheep, speaks well of his sheep, gives rest to his sheep, and perseveres with his sheep. This is a very good description of Jesus’ relationship with each of us. Developing these characteristics takes a life-long relationship between the sheep and the shepherd. This relationship begins in the now moment and continues into eternity.
Jesus as the Shepherd knows our sinfulness (sheep-ness) and still loves us. He calls us to follow him (the Good Shepherd) in a radical way of living in His kingdom now and in eternity. In fact, Jesus promises to “shepherd” us and not to abandon us. The Good Shepherd wants and desires to have an “alive” relationship with each of us. And he wants us to “reach out and touch others” in the same way that He does – those who are outcasts, sinners, and lost. We do this by acting as shepherds do…
Discipleship is like training for a sport. It is rarely easy and is a daily exercise in fidelity. We are called to lives of holiness by putting our faith into action. We do this by listening to the Good Shepherd and putting Jesus’ words and deeds into action. We are in “good hands” with Jesus.
Jesus said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” Although Jesus used this figure of speech, the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them.
So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
Meet Sister Angele Lewis, SNDdeN