The references to shepherds in the Scriptures is lost on a present-day community because most of us did not grow up on farms or in rural areas. So, it is a good time to reflect on exactly what a shepherd does and who are they.
A shepherd was responsible for the care of a flock of sheep. Through training and conditioning, the sheep came to learn about the care the shepherd had for them and would respond to the shepherd’s voice because it the sheep always identified the shepherd for safety and leading them to green pastures for nourishment.
When a shepherd became responsible for the sheep, it was a total commitment. The shepherd spent all their time with the sheep when they were out to pasture, collected any of the sheep who would stray from the flock and bring them back, and the shepherd would protect the flock because they had no other means of defending themselves from predators.
In our Church, the true shepherds are the bishops, who have responsibility for their people. The responsibility is primarily spiritual but also extends to material needs and secular matters. Because the shepherds cannot oversee an entire congregation (diocese) with individual care, they delegate to pastors the responsibly for smaller flocks (parishes).
Unfortunately, some bishops and pastors over the history of the Church, abandoned the role of care and protection of their flock and instead engaged in an elitist attitude that formed a hierarchy and separated them from the everyday needs of the people. However, the calling was to be like Jesus and to be the servant of the servants of God.
The responsibility of the sheep does not end with bishop and pastor but extends to the “little church” or the family, where mom and dad also have a responsibility to care for the flock that God has given them.
The greatest crisis in the Church today, is how to we encourage the stray sheep, our young people, to return to the fold. We as parents are faced with situations that our forebearers could not even image.
So, how do we do this? I call to mind the song, “Let there be peace” and the line that says, “Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now”. Before we can become shepherds, we must first be good sheep or good followers of Jesus. A shepherd leads by example and creates a safe and nourishing environment that is attractive to the sheep. This means in the family, the mom and dad, or the single parent, must first be conformed to the very likeness of Jesus, be filled with His love, and love our children as Jesus has first loved us. We need to build relationships with our children, listen to them with our ears and not our mouths, and accept them where they are with a vision given us by God to see them whole and complete in His love.
The Church will be renewed one family at a time. Often, we reach out to others, not of our flock, before we attend to the needs of our own flock. We need to bloom where we are planted and minister within the confines of where our shadow falls.
May the Holy Spirit continue to renew the Church, one little church at a time, so together our lives and our actions will give glory to the Father and be an example for our own and for others to follow.
May God continue to bless us,