It’s interesting to me that on this feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the readings lead us to the relationship between a shepherd and his/her sheep. It makes sense, however, if we consider the care that a dedicated shepherd shows to the sheep. What might that mean?
- A good shepherd leads the sheep rather than herding them from behind.
- A shepherd is careful to watch the sheep and protect them from eating poisonous plants or encountering dangerous predators.
- In most cases, shepherds lead their sheep each day to fresh grazing areas of good forage and bring them back to the same area each night.
- When one sheep decides to go somewhere, others follow so the shepherd must be alert to the “intentions” and actions of the sheep.
- Sheep have excellent peripheral vision, being able even to see what is behind them without even turning their heads, but they cannot see what is right under their noses, so need the guidance of a shepherd.
- The relationship of shepherd to sheep is generally a gentle one and caring. To quote Jesus: “I know mine and mine know me.” (Wikipedia)
It’s easy to see why the image of “the Good Shepherd” is fitting for this feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the symbol of unconditional love. If we, then, are the sheep of that Good Shepherd, how blessed are we to be so cared for!