Above: Christ as the Good Shepherd
is found as a fresco in the Crypts of Lucina,
ceiling of the Cubiculum of the Good Shepherd,
catacomb of Callixtus in Rome (mid-third century).
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Tell me. Suppose a man has a hundred sheep and one of them strays; will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go in search of the stray? I tell you solemnly, if he finds it, it gives him more joy than do the ninety-nine that did not stray at all. Similarly, it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.’ Matthew 18:12-14
Since the moment sin entered the world humans have been running. We have been running away from God. But we forget that God is also running. God is running after us.
Our running tires us. We are exhausted. But we keep running. We naively think that we can find what we seek apart from God.
Our escape is futile since God is prepared to chase us, down to earth, into our human existence, even to the human realities of suffering and death.
In Jesus God becomes one of us. God joins us in the place where all our running invariably and inevitably leads us to isolation. We run in an effort to find life and intimacy, and instead we feel more alone than ever before.
Linking this running with the image of the Good Shepherd from today’s gospel I think of Steve my uncle, the farmer.
During lambing Steve would notice a ewe in trouble and he would run to catch the ewe. The ewe did not want to be caught and would run to escape. She couldn’t imagine that Steve was going to help her. As a kid, uselessly standing on the sideline I was just wishing the stupid ewe would stop and let Steve help. Her life would be so much easier if she just relaxed!
The link between the shepherd and the sheep is painfully obvious to me now, for I, far too often, am like the stupid sheep. I run from what is best for me. I run to escape from the one who is waiting to overwhelm me with life, with love and with happiness.
Why are we humans so slow to realise that our health and happiness is found only when we stop and allow Jesus the good shepherd to catch us?
Jesus, the good shepherd, will feed us and befriend us. He will carry us through the dark valleys of life, to the house of the Lord where we are invited to dwell all our days.
- Take time today to catch yourself rushing and running. This may feel like busyness, but running can also be apathy and avoidance.
- Ask Jesus to reveal to you any way in which you might be running from Him. Don’t waste time feeling guilty when you become aware of something, just relax, be still and notice Jesus gazing at you with love.