In next Sunday's Gospel reading, Jesus identifies himself as the Good
Shepherd. We are the sheep for whom he has laid down his life. He put
everything aside for our sake - his human desire for an easy life, the
security and familiarity of a home of his own, his time, his sleep,
his tiredness, and his natural preference to avoid persecution,
torture and death.
We are the sheep who recognize our Shepherd's voice and willingly
follow him to better pastures. We want him to be our Good Shepherd. We
want his protection, his guidance, and his love.
However, sometimes we forget to listen for his voice. This usually
happens when life doesn't go as planned, the way WE want it to. In
frustration and fear, we assume that Jesus has left the sheepfold. We
think he's gone after the lost sheep and left us behind to fend for
ourselves, and - oh no! - this is surely when the wolves attack!
Doesn't he realize that? How could he do this to us if he really cares
as much about us as he says he does? Why is he more concerned about
the sheep who strayed than he is about us who are good sheep?
However, no matter how busy Jesus gets and no matter how far he has to
go to rescue lost sheep, he never leaves our side. He is always with
us. When the path of life takes us to dead ends or dangerous cliffs,
it's not because he's abandoned us. The pain we feel is his shepherd's
staff tapping and prodding us to get us to move in a different
direction, and we just haven't understood.
We don't want to go in that other direction. We like the familiarity
of this old pasture. We're getting annoyed at the tap-tap-tapping of
the staff on our heads. And we won't discover the blessing of this
discipline until we turn again to Jesus with eyes of trust and ears
that are attentive to everything he says, even if at first we don't
like what he's saying.
Questions for Personal Reflection:In what areas of your life do you
feel lost and alone or abandoned? What activities can you do that will
restore your vision and your hearing so you can recognize the presence
of your Good Shepherd?
Ps 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28-29
1 John 3:1-2
Hope is the theme of the First Sunday of Advent. In the readings for Mass, Isaiah describes a future in which all is well because (1) God is recognized as the highest authority and (2) obeying him is the people's highest priority. This vision gave great hope to the oppressed Israelites. Today if we look at this as a description of heaven, it gives great hope to us, too. When we die, "terms" will be "imposed" upon us because we did not stay entirely on the paths of God (a good reason for purgatory), but we will be living in the light of the Lord after death and there will be no more wars to battle.