Jesus as Good Shepherd may seem a difficult concept for readers whose experience is primarily urban. But the more I think about it, the richer it seems. Never mind that shepherds say the critters they tend are stupid and smelly. No odd aromas nor slow wits deter Jesus. He simply says, “I know my own,” placing no blame.
On Easter Monday, the gospel mentions the women running from the tomb with a cocktail of emotions, “fearful yet overjoyed.” “And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them” (Mt. 28: 9). No matter how meandering our ways, through grocery stores or gyms, offices or schools, retirement centers or prisons, Jesus, eager to see us, meets us on each unique and personal path. We needn’t be running a marathon or ascending to an altar—he’s there waiting, arms open wide.
I recently observed Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, where Emmy, aged seven, her glossy dark hair escaping from the braids where it had probably been neatly placed earlier in the day, was asked what the Shepherd does. One strap of her overalls was unfastened, but she was clear in her response. Softly, she said, “He takes care of us.” All we need to know for security and confidence…
In a relevant tangent: The shrine of Our Lady of Aranzazu, Spain was built on the site where Rodrigo de Balzategui, a Basque shepherd, found a statue of the Virgin Mary nestled in a thorny bush with a cowbell in 1469. Stunned, he asked, “You? Among the thorns?” Exactly where a shepherd might seek the lost, in brambly wild places. St. Ignatius visited the shrine in 1522 on his way to Montserrat. Some suspect the experience must have influenced his signature quest for “finding God in all things.”
Loved “needn’t be ascending an altar”!! John