Fr John F. Kavanaugh, a Jesuit Scripture scholar once wrote: “I once heard a description of Middle Eastern shepherding practices that ties these two images together. The sheepfold, especially one unattached to a larger settlement or dwelling, is a circular wall of stones, topped by barriers of briar. There is a small opening for the sheep to pass through. Once they are all in, instead of closing a hinged gate, the shepherd simply lies across the opening, so that nothing or no one can get through without going over his body first, without confronting or even killing him.”
At this current moment in history, we need to know that the Good Shepherd is here protecting and caring for us his sheep. We are walking in a dark valley of fear and worry, but we need to have the faith that he is with us with his rod and staff to comfort us. He brings us to the table of comfort when we are need peace in our hearts and he is near us when we are feeling we have had enough. The Good Shepherd has gathered us into the flock of the Church and is at the gate protecting and caring for us. Our God died to show us that even death and sin could not harm the Good Shepherd and he rose again to show us, his sheep, that suffering and pain is turned into joy.
So often, we run away from the shepherd not realizing that he is trying to protect us. We try to find our safety in things and trying to do it all alone. The reality is that we are not alone and we do not to do it all alone. Sheep are dependent on the shepherd for food, protection, safety and love. We need to be as dependent on our Good Shepherd who gave us life for us.
Obviously, the sheepfold is the Church and the gateway is baptism. So often, baptism is seen as something to be done. The sacrament of baptism is the entry way into the shepherd’s flock and the grace that flows from it is for a lifetime, not just for one day. Our life in the sheepfold is with one another, fed by the Sacraments and grace, following the Shepherd in the pasture of life and knowing his gently care and protection every step of the way. Even when we stray, his staff gently pulls us back into the fold, unless we run away. Even then, the Shepherd will continue to look for us, call us by name, and keep looking. Unfortunately for some, they prefer to stay hidden walking alone outside the sheepfold; but, some allow themselves to be found and the Shepherd is filled with joy at their return.
My brothers and sisters, the work of the Shepherd is never done because he is always taking of us his sheep. We never need to worry that we are alone because we never are. We never need to worry that we are not safe because the Shepherd in laying at the door of the sheepfold keeping us safe. He anoints the wounds of our sins with the oil of forgiveness and healing. He sets the table of the Eucharist before us to feed us every step of the way to the eternal pastures of heaven.
The Good Shepherd is protecting us right now, even in the middle of this pandemic and uncertainty. As the sheep of His fold, his love and grace are with in no matter what. Let us entrust ourselves to him right now knowing the he will take care of us and protect us all the days of our life.