Images of the Good Shepherd Support the Suffering

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 Deacon Don Grossnickle Executive Dirctor Stauros USA

Jn 10:11-18

Jesus said:
“I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A hired man, who is not a shepherd
and whose sheep are not his own,
sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away,
and the wolf catches and scatters them.
This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice,
and there will be one flock, one shepherd.
This is why the Father loves me,
because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.
I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.
This command I have received from my Father.”This is a homily I delivered at Our lady of the Wayside Catholic Church where I serve as a permanent deacon. I wish to share it on this Stauros BLOG in the hopes that it will strenthen the support necessary to deal with suffering.

This the second time this week I have had the opportunity to share the good news message contained in this homily.

 The first occasion was a session I had with a family member who just 2 days ago shared his diagnosis and pathology of an apparent  inoperable lung cancer. 

This week confronting the cancer and the uncertain days ahead we talked about the images we have about God. He and I discussed the power and reassurance of today’s gospel: The Good Shepherd.  We discussed and analyzed-What picture of God and the divine will be most helpful to him as he faces this fearsome life-crisis and test of his faith. What role will he allow God to play?

 One pastoral image you and I often view in our art galleries depictions of the Good Shepherd is a Jesus with a sheep worn around his neck, or, a sheep cuddled safely in the arms of the Shepherd. This soft picture of Jesus is a good one especially if we are looking for image of a kind and compassionate forgiving God who can comfort, reconcile sins, forgive and welcome one into heaven-even one who has been imperfect.

 An alternative picture is Jesus the aggressive defender of his flock-I invite you to imagine this picture: In the background are flocks of sheep grazing at peace on rolling green hills. But in the foreground a thief is attacking. The shepherd has pounced on the thief and is holding his shepherd’s staff across the thief’s throat, pinning him to the ground and slowly choking off his air, but the gasping thief is reaching up to grab the shepherd. It’s a horrifying, violent sight, and yet, the whole time, there in the background, blissfully oblivious to the whole thing, the sheep continue to safely graze. You get the picture-the good shepherd is fighting and looking out for us.

For my family member: what is really important is the great message of the gospel that says: I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me.

The Easter story clearly demonstrates a Jesus divine God who endures horrific torture on the cross so that he can be our good shepherd in good times and bad. This is the fighter the warrior that stands with us in times like fighting the wicked cancer, an evil thief that threatens to take our lives, our soul, our spirit. 

Friends: chemotherapy, radiation, and the horrors of suffering and all the trials you and I face–cannot separate us from the good shepherd. We receive the Sacrament of the Annointing of the Sick for strength and assurance of the power we have in standing with the Good Shepherd.

Jesus promises: “there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.

“We are in the arms of the Good Shepherd-

Alleluia!

Thanks be to God.

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