When Good Shepherd Sunday rolls around again, we dread being compared to sheep: wooly, stupid and directionally challenged.
So maybe we should focus instead on the shepherd: there are many reasons why he has been beloved for centuries. We who have grown overly cynical about leadership, given the disasters in church, state and corporate worlds, can find refreshment in this portrait. This is not the hierarch who sacrifices children to pedophiles in order to preserve the church’s reputation. This is not the president who sends thousands to die in war for some unclear purpose. This is not the CEO who draws a salary astronomically higher than the least paid workers in the company.
In utter simplicity and without drawing attention to himself, this leader sacrifices his own life for his friends. He is confident and calm, nobly laying down his life. Although the thugs may seem to control him at his trial and crucifixion, he in reality is directing the order of events. Why? That seems a mystery, and is in fact the same question the poet Christina Rossetti asked about the quest for the lost sheep: “Is one worth seeking, when Thou hast of Thine/ Ninety and nine?”
Such dedication is beyond human comprehension, but hints of a supreme love.