Saint for the day: Benedict Joseph Labre (died 1783)
Acts 13:14, 43-52
Psalm 100 – Revelation 7:9, 14-17 – John 10:27-30
“Jesus said, ‘My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me.’” (John 10:27)
For most of us, living in urban settings, we miss some of the language nuances that the people in apostolic times would have been familiar with. If it weren’t for my eight years in Africa, I would have never had the opportunity to see sheep and shepherds in an up close and personal way like I did. The residence of the Dominican community where I lived was still pretty much at the northern edge of the city limits. So, it wasn’t uncommon to see local shepherds tend their flocks even along the edges of the roadways. Somehow the sheep know to stay off the road and on the “green pastures” where they have the protection of the shepherd. In the more rural areas I often came across “sheepfolds” which are large, circular areas enclosed by bunches of dried sagebrush. This would have been an image familiar to the people at the time of Jesus and the preaching of the Apostles and Disciples. So they knew that several shepherds would take advantage of these “sheepfolds” with the awareness that each individual shepherd’s sheep knew and recognized the voice of their shepherd.
One part of the sheepfold was the “gate” and we often hear Jesus saying that “He is the Gate.” After the sheep of several different folds were inside, the shepherd, himself, would position his body in that opening, thus making himself the actual “gate.”’ In the morning, each shepherd could come and simply call his sheep out. They knew his voice and to whom they belonged. You might have to spend just a little time processing these definitions in order to grasp all the scriptural references fully. Perhaps the more important understanding would be along the lines that we need to know that Jesus knows us through and through and calls us by name and protects us by his very life.
And there you have it: the reason why this Sunday is called, Good Shepherd Sunday. It is also the World day of prayer for vocations and an opportunity to pray for our own novices here at St. Dominic’s in San Francisco. Religious and Church vocations don’t just pop out of thin air. They come from families and communities that are rooted in the faith of the Church which knows Jesus as a good and loving Shepherd leading His flock to the Kingdom. Amen!