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Good Shepherd keeps us safe

Based on the Gospel of John 10:11-18
“Good Shepherd Sunday.” Shepherd and sheep. Love, protection and life. Sheep are timid, gentle animals that live together in flocks. They depend on people for protection from danger. Small things like paper blowing in the wind can scare them. If they’re frightened when crossing water, they can drown. If no one is around to watch over them, the sheep can stray, get lost and get into trouble.

Jesus tells us a good shepherd takes care of his sheep by giving them good pasture to graze, water and protection from bad weather, other animals and dangers. A good shepherd knows each of his sheep. When he calls, they follow because they know his voice and trust him. A good shepherd is willing to die for his sheep because he loves them.

Jesus says a hired man paid to take care of sheep will not give the same care as the shepherd because the sheep don’t belong to him. When a wolf comes near the sheep, the hired man cares more about saving himself than about saving the sheep.

Jesus used the example of the shepherd and sheep to help people understand how he would lead and look after all people. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, loves us, cares for all our needs, and watches over us. He knows each of us by name and knows everything about us. He never abandons us. He calls us to follow him.

Jesus is always with us to protect us and shows us the right way to go. Does this mean we’ll never have bad things happen to us – that we’ll never be hurt, frightened or in pain? No. The bad things may happen, and the hurtful, frightening and painful things may still come to us but, like sheep safe in the shepherd’s care, nothing can take us out of the hands of Jesus, our Good Shepherd. Read Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

Jesus also calls other shepherds to watch over us, such as our parents, families, bishops, priests, nuns and lay teachers. And, there is one earthly shepherd who has special responsibilities for taking care of Jesus’ flock – the pope. Pope Benedict XVI is Jesus’ representative on earth and the 265th successor to St. Peter, the first pope.

In addition to his teachings and writings, the Holy Father, as chief shepherd of the Catholic Church, periodically travels to various countries. Remember his historic visit to the United States in 2008 and, most recently, to Mexico and Cuba? A voice of hope and peace, the Holy Father comes as a pastor/shepherd ministering to his flock and spreading the Gospel of Jesus. Like good sheep we, as Catholics, recognize the voice of Pope Benedict XVI as our good shepherd on earth.