That’s All I Need to Know

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Students at a parish school were learning about Jesus and his role as the Good Shepherd. They were given a month to memorize Psalm 23, which they would have to recite at a school assembly with the pastor and all the parents attending. When the big night came, the first student nervously stepped up to the microphone and began, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Then his mind went as blank as a wall. The parents waited while he struggled to remember the next line. Finally, in desperation, he said, “and that’s all I need to know.”

At first there was silence, and then applause began. The claps came slowly at first, finally building to full, thunderous ovation. The child was right; that is all we need to know. Like many things in Scripture, the image of Jesus as a Good Shepherd, carrying a sheep on his shoulders can give us great comfort as well as provide a great challenge for us.

The concern of a good shepherd for his sheep is part of the shepherd’s job. Jesus says, however, that the actions of the good shepherd are based upon the relationship that develops between the shepherd and the sheep. This is at the heart of the difference between the good shepherd and the hired shepherd. The good shepherd knows the sheep and therefore acts out of love. For the Good Shepherd, this is never simply part of a job; this love-in-action is integral to his identity. Our creator knows each one of us, even better than we know ourselves, and God is willing to carry us (like the sheep on Jesus’ shoulder) when we are struggling. Perhaps this ‘carrying’ is in the form of the people in our lives who listen, support, and advise us during times of struggle and weakness or perhaps it is in the situations when we can set aside time to relax, enjoy nature, re energize, and just rest in the Lord.

The challenge of being a Christian is that frequently we are called to be the Shepherd: the one who makes sacrifices for the “sheep” not because it is required, but because it is a choice made in love. As we encounter people, and become aware of their situations and problems, we can choose to respond in a loving, caring way. In a family, parents choose to make sacrifices for their children out of love, not obligation. Christian parents model and invite their children to choose to make sacrifices for other family members and for other people, acting out of love rather than obligation.

Perhaps this week, we could take time as individuals, as a family, and as a church to consider the attitude that guides our actions. Do we do family chores cheerfully and without having to be asked multiple times? Do we gladly share with others? Do we willingly contribute to the family/community/parish life when asked or even before we are asked?  How can the example of the Good Shepherd inspire our daily life?

The song Raise Me Up (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bxc9hbwkkw) might become our theme song this week as we are ‘raised up’ by others when in need and do the raising up when others need it.

Peg Orzel