May our Good Shepherd’s peace and mercy be with all. More and more research shows the mental health value of prayer and belief in the relationship with a Loving God. In our Christian tradition we have a powerful image in the Good Shepherd.
1 Peter 2:20-25 “Beloved,” St. Peter begins, as he exhorted us to remember we are Beloveds of the Beloved. Hard for us to fathom yet important to remember as we journey I think. It reminds me as did the gospel reading for May 7, 2017 “You are called by name.” If we are seeking God, then all the more He is seeking us.
It dawned on me yesterday in listening, how this seeking us, evades us at times and why saints through the ages and indeed the gospel itself so often recalls to our mind, God is seeking us. “..the sheep hear His voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out…he walks ahead of them and the sheep follow him because they recognize his voice.” (John 10:1-10)
In the clamor of “voices” that seek our attention, it reminds me why the Shepherd might call us on this path, as the gospel reading continues “so that they might have life and have it more abundantly”. As St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote long ago, too, only when we know how deeply we are loved are we able to love in return. This Bernardine quote hangs in my office, as I do much couples work. Only in listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd, recognizing we are being ‘called by name’, realizing His unfathomable agape for us, will we be empowered us to have life so abundant it flows out to those around us, potentially transforming us and our relationships.
Our priest last night reflected on the seemingly illogical choice of the Shepherd to go after the one lost sheep, and that in our lives, we might reflect we are called to do the same, with those in need…to seek out, to invite in and to stay with even though all logic or the world says to flee.
I was glad to hear this from the pulpit since while there is a genuine truth to the psychological teaching about not “enabling”, having “appropriate boundaries”, there is also a great and too easy misuse of this to excuse the self from reaching out to the “lost sheep” from doing the uncomfortable, reaching out to the one who most needs it especially right in our own families. Truly following the Shepherd will lead us at times out on a ledge doing what looks to others to be unreasonable, illogical. Yet this discernment sure takes our listening, intently with the ear of our hearts…knowing His voice, knowing what is ours to do in the situation. The Good Shepherd will guide and goes to great length to seek us out and bring us home to the fold.
The Good Shepherd will not lead us where He cannot feed us. As long as we listen to His voice and follow Him we will be safe and loved, even if in the midst of great trials or suffering at St. Peter advises. In relating to others it is vital we stay grounded in listening to the One who loves us best, the Good Shepherd and discern well.