The Lord is My Shepherd

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In today’s readings as well as the Responsorial, we see the reference to Jesus as the shepherd and we the people as His flock. When I was growing up, I hated the reference to being a sheep and was sure I wanted to be one of the independent thinking goats, not a mindless sheep. As I grew up, I came to understand that being a sheep of His flock was a thing to be desired.

Having grown up with the King James Version of the Bible, the wording of today’s Responsorial sounds a bit strange to my ears, yet the thoughts are the same. The shepherd leads his sheep and watches over them. I’m not a shepherd, but anyone who has horses, cattle, or even dogs can understand this concept. We do what we can to provide them with good food and clean water. Despite what I provide for them, my dogs have free will. Sometimes they persist in eating bad things and they do have an insane desire to drink out of toilets and mud puddles. So when they get sick, I take them to the vet and try to make them well again. That’s a lot like Christ, the Good Shepherd, offering us good things, but we tend to exercise our free will and get into trouble. Then He is there to heal us of our sins.

When I’m out with my dogs, I keep them on a leash. Huskies are powerful – a single dog can easily pull several hundred pounds which is much more than I weigh. So the leash is a guide more than real control. Horses are the same – those flimsy leather straps aren’t going to do a lot to stop a panicked horse, but they act as a guide, relaying to the horse what is expected. These simple controls give the animal confidence in iffy situations: they trust in our judgment. The shepherd’s staff and crook fulfill the same purpose with his sheep. As Christians, we also look to God for guidance. We may not see His “staff and crook,” but we hear His word every Sunday at Mass, and we have the Bible to read.

Even when dangers and temptations surround them, my dogs know that I will feed them every day, rain or snow, heat or cold. It becomes part of their faith that I am watching out for them. One thing they haven’t figured out, though, is the fly and tick repellant I “anoint” them with. Those of you who have tried to treat a horse with fly spray know what I’m talking about. Suddenly all trust seems to go out the window and they are convinced we are trying to kill them. They don’t understand our greater vision of protecting them from annoyances and disease. Too often, we’re like that with God. We become so convinced of our own intelligence and righteousness that we try to tell God what to do. We may believe on the surface that He has a greater vision, but our reality doesn’t encompass it. We disbelieve and protest, sometimes even to the point of denying our faith or our church precepts.

Still, God persists in loving us and caring for us, just as I continue to care for my sometimes ungrateful dogs. As nlong as they are here in my house, under my care, their cup will overflow and love and goodness will be with them all the days of their lives. It’s a good feeling to know that I can live in God’s house as an adopted child – a sheep of His own flock – and His love and kindness will be with me forever.


Linda Crowley