1 John 3:1-2
"I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep."
These words from today’s gospel reading are some of the most treasured in our Christian faith. However I have to admit that I know very little about herding and caring for sheep. I have attempted to "count sheep" but that’s about it! So when John relates what Jesus said about the good shepherd, I have to rely on what others have told me about sheep and what I’ve seen at the Kentucky State Fair.
Sheep are docile, produce wool and can be "herded", unlike our pet cats Solomon and Gabriel. Sheep need a certain amount of protection from predators. So, a "good shepherd" looks out for the sheep and takes care of them. But "laying down my life for a sheep" (or either one of our cats), I’m not sure I could go that far!
"Laying down one’s life" for anyone or anything is a rare, remarkable, unique act of love. I recently met an individual in my tornado disaster relief work for the Red Cross who did exactly what a "good shepherd" would do; he protected the lives of others and it cost him a broken back, great physical pain and life threatening injuries. I was honored and humbled to meet and talk with him. His only voiced concern was over the folks he tried to protect who did not make it.
Most of us will not experience this kind of a dramatic moment in time when we must choose to sacrifice our own life for the life of another. However we all are "recipients" of the greatest sacrifice of all, the sacrifice of our good shepherd Jesus who gave his life for us on the cross. I really don’t have to know about sheep to reflect on this sacrifice; I simply have to look toward the cross. As members of our Passionist Family let us give thanks today and every day for the overwhelming act of love God has given us in Jesus crucified, our good shepherd!
Terry McDevitt, Ph.D. is a member of our Passionist Family who volunteers at the Passionist Assisted Living Community in Louisville, Kentucky.