Pondering the Word…
look at the difference between the good shepherd and the hired one.
First, note the adjective, “good.” We know all too well there are
those entrusted to lead flocks whose motivations and actions are
anything but good. And we also know there are “hired”
shepherds—those whose chosen profession is to protect the
public--who lay down their lives every day for complete strangers.
Of course, there are some who abuse this position as well, but I
believe the majority are courageous men and women willing to put
their lives on the line.
of and honor the school teachers and staff who, in recent years,
have died protecting students. I doubt when they chose their career
path, having to risk their lives was part of what they envisioned,
nor was the prospect of coming to work armed very high on their list
of professional goals!
passage tells us that good shepherds are also willing to look beyond
their own flocks, to lay down their lives for those who don’t even
belong to their fold. John tells us of Jesus, “He himself is the
sacrifice that atones for our sins--and not only our sins but the
sins of all the world.” (1 Jn 2:2) All the world—everyone.
most of us are not called to risk our mortal lives, in order to be
the kind of shepherd Jesus is for the world, we need to be willing
to set aside our biases and preconceived notions so that, by our
actions and the way we live, we can serve as gentle, loving guides
to all the world, so that everyone will hear his voice and follow.
How are you called to be a good shepherd?
Living the Word…
think the image of a shepherd comes into play only in the hierarchy
of church, or, if we are really idealistic, we might hope to someday
view our government officials and politicians that way too. Take
time to consider this: If you were to wake up and commit to being a
good shepherd for the day, what might that look like? How would you
treat the people you encountered? How would you treat the earth?
What kind of behavior would you model? Write some ideas in your
journal and then give it try. See how you can improve your
The brothers heard the Gentiles had accepted the word of God. When
Peter went up to Jerusalem the circumcised believers confronted him:
“You entered the house of uncircumcised people and ate with them."
Disagreements over who’s “in” and who’s “out” happened a lot in the
early days of Christianity. They happen today. I think of the
Christian congregations I’ve read about recently experiencing
dissention and conflict over the sheltering of undocumented
immigrants. Some feel obliged by the rule of the land; others follow
God’s command of love and mercy. In my own country, we see more and
more that mercy is taking a backseat to nationalism and exclusion.
There were those in the early church who rejected Peter, Paul, and
their outreach to the Gentiles—it was a violation of the
all-important written law. What if Peter and Paul had folded under
the pressure and opted for the path of least resistance? What might
have happened to the fledgling church? Something to consider if you
struggle to reconcile the rule of the law with the call to be
“I tell of Egypt and Babylon among those who know the LORD; ‘This
man was born there.’ And of Zion they shall say: ‘One and all were
born in her…’ And all shall sing, in their festive dance: ‘My home
is within you.’’’ (Ps 87)
“Where are you from?” It’s one of the first questions
we ask a new person we meet, especially if their ethnicity seems to
be different than ours. I read an article about a Chinese-American
professor who often gets told, “Your English is very good,” to which
he responds, “Well, I hope so, since I was born and raised in
Oregon!” We are quick to make assumptions based on appearances, even
when our intention is to be welcoming. But too often, we use
appearances to erect walls between “us” and “them.” Do we really
think that’s what God wants? The God who says, “My home is within
you?” Today, look past others’ appearance to the God abiding within.
See if that changes the way you view others and the way you treat
your worries upon him because he cares for you.
(1 Pt 5:5-14)
I talk to God about my worries and anxieties, but I’m
not sure if I really “cast them upon him.” Sometimes I feel like I
am just venting rather than trusting in God’s care. I don’t know
whether it’s my need for control or if there is some leftover
question in my heart: “Does God really care for me?” It can
be hubris to think that God can’t or doesn’t want to deal with the
concerns I have in my life. So why then am I so hesitant to trust in
God’s care and desire for my welfare? If this sounds familiar, spend
some time in prayer. What keeps you from entrusting your life to
“I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have
anointed him, that my hand may be always with him, and that my arm
may make him strong.” (Ps 89)
"I have found (your name), my servant; I have anointed you, that my
hand may be always with you, and that my arm may make you strong."
Imagine Jesus praying this blessing over you.
“I am the way and the truth and the life.” (Jn
When Jesus says, “I am the way,” he means it
literally. “Look at me. Look at my life. This is the way you are to
live if you seek truth and life.” It’s not some vague expression of
faith in his divinity or following a set of rules.
“In the last analysis faith is not a way of speaking or a way of
thinking; it is a way of living…To acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and
Savior is only meaningful in so far as we try to live as he lived
and to order our lives according to his values… He himself did not
regard the truth as something we simply ‘uphold’ and ‘maintain,’ but
as something we choose to live and experience….We can refer to
traditional authorities and theological arguments, but what we
believe can only be made true, and be seen to be true, in the
concrete results which faith achieves in the world.” (from
Jesus Before Christianity, by Albert Nolan, O.P.)
"Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know
(Jn 14: 7-14)
How well do you know Jesus? I am reminded of the
words spoken by Job to God: “By hearsay, I had heard of you, but
now my eye has seen you.” (42: 5) There are still lots of people
who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus, who don’t know
really know him. The book referenced yesterday can help you to learn
more, but to know Jesus, we must spend time being vulnerable with
him. Today’s a good day to get started!