How often we allow the “thieves and bandits” through the gateways of our homes and ourselves. Advertising which makes us feel inferior, broadcasting filled with violence and greed, people who demean us, even the messages we send ourselves: “you’re not good enough, bright enough, smart enough, etc.” It’s as if we allow a dump truck full of garbage to unload in the living room.
In contrast, Jesus offers himself as a guide who brings us into green pastures filled with abundant life. Can we hear this deeply good shepherd calling our name, or are we too buried in busy-ness and distraction? Jesus never coerces or forces himself. Instead we are drawn to him as to a friend who’s fun and sympathetic, someone we want to be near.
Sometimes we’re confused about what we need most. How consoling to have One who knows better than we do what we need. One of the loveliest responses to this gospel comes from Sofia Cavalletti’s book The Religious Potential of the child (Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1992). There she describes a three-year old suffering from leukemia. The little girl’s one consolation during painful treatments was that the shepherd called her by name and she knew his voice. To appreciate her insight, remember someone beloved calling your name, in tones warm with affirmation. Now magnify that sound, so it drowns out all the destructive influences and negative voices. Jesus is pleased with you, delights in you, protects you. That is what we celebrate today.