It was EWTN on March 18 2002, who presented a parody on Psalm 23 thus:
The TV is my shepherd I shall not want,
It makes me to lie down on the sofa.
It leads me away from the faith,
It destroys my soul.
It leads me to the path of sex and violence for the advertiser’s sake.
Even though I walk in the shadow of Christian irresponsibilities,
There will be no interruption, for the TV is with me.
Its cable and remote control, they comfort me It prepares a commercial for me in the midst of my worldliness
And anoints my head with secular humanism and consumerism.
My covetousness runs over;
Surely ignorance and laziness shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of wretchedness watching TV forever.
Very much unlike the above parody, today is the Good Shepherd Sunday; a day in which the church recalls the relationship between God and his people as described in the image of Shepherd and Sheep. “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” These words of our Lord refer to the Paschal Mystery which we celebrate at Easter. It is therefore most appropriate then that this Fourth Sunday of Easter be celebrated as Good Shepherd Sunday.
The image of the Good Shepherd is one of the most primitive, the most enduring and the most endearing images of our Lord. It is found first of all in the Old Testament. “For thus says the Lord God: I myself will look after my sheep. As a shepherd tends his flock, so will I tend my sheep. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal” (Ezekiel 34:11). It is also one of the most beloved Psalms, “The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I will want.” (Psalm 23)
In Palestine the shepherd brought the sheep into the sheepfold every night. It was a circular stone wall with an opening or door where the sheep entered. Once the sheep were inside for the night the shepherd slept in that opening or door all night. The sheep could not get out without stepping over the shepherd’s body which meant they would not get out at all during the night. Jesus is the gate, anyone who enters through him will be safe, and will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture. Even as the sheep is about to go in, the shepherd stays by the door side holding his rod a little high that the sheep may enter the house slowly to enable him observe them meticulously to be sure they are all in good shape. If any isn’t in a good shape, the shepherd bandages its wounds with love and care. In our day, Jesus is this Good Shepherd Pope St. John Paul encouraged people many times to find life to the full by following Jesus thus he said, “Do not be afraid to open the doors to Christ…”
In the ancient Palestinian world, the shepherd had some instruments like rod, crook/staff e.t.c. The rod was an agent of security to protect the sheep from wild animals and fight every prey while the crook was the symbol of his authority as a shepherd. Today this instrument of the shepherd, the crook, is represented in the crosier which is used by Pope and Bishops, successors of Peter and the Apostles, at Liturgical functions. The symbol of the shepherd is also present on the Parish level in the Pastor, which in Latin means shepherd.
In the gospel reading Jesus identifies himself as the shepherd: “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). His Jewish listeners must have gasped in shock to hear him say that. This is because, for Jews, the shepherd of the flock of Israel is none other than the Lord God himself (Psalm 23:1). Jesus went on to make explicit what is implied in his claim to be the shepherd of the God’s flock when he said, “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30). That the Father sent Jesus and delegated him with full authority to act in His name is only half of the story. The other half of the story is that Jesus in turn delegated his chosen disciples to act with full authority in his name.
Hearing the voice of the master or the leader is natural in parent-child relationship. It is a sign of loyalty. Our dogs and cats hear us more than any other person no matter their disposition, they can be silent to the voice of an outsider but the moment they hear the voice of their owner, they jump up. This kind of reaction is proper to the relationship of a father or mother and child. The same also should be true of our relationship with God. In the light of the gospel, if we reach close relationship with God, we would be able to distinguish His voice from the many voices that are urging us to follow them – parents, teachers, doctors, government, coaches, employers, advertisers and marketers – each trying to influence our values and behaviors with their voices.
Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘woe to you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them. …..’ (Ezekiel 34:2-6). One may ask; ‘who are these shepherds’? These sayings are addressed to all of us in our individual responsibilities not just religious and political leaders but whichever responsibility entrusted to us in life. Even as a cleaner in an office, this saying today is for you! Have you allowed the flock of responsibility entrusted to you to fumble?
Yes, whoever rightly bears the name “shepherd” among men also demands obedience not towards himself but towards Christ, the only true shepherd. He speaks not with his own voice, but only the voice of Christ, the only true shepherd. He does not lead his hearers to himself but to Christ, yes, away from himself and only to Christ. A good shepherd guards his sheep; but still, at the last, every sheep becomes the prey of death. Christ, the Good Shepherd, calls to us: “He that believeth in Me, although he be dead, shall live.” Death, since Christ has redeemed us, is no longer to us what death is to a sheep, namely, destruction. No; through Christ, the Lamb of God, sacrificed for us, we have a right to exclaim: “O death! where is thy sting?”
Let us pray especially for the leaders of the church today that the spirit of the good shepherd may be their light. Let us also pray for the grace to be supportive to the leaders of the church and not destructive in attitudes of carelessness, blackmail, gossip and betrayal.