Reflection for Sunday – April 21, 2024

Readings: Acts 4:8-12; 1 John 3: 1-2; John 10: 11-18 
Preacher: Nancy DeRycke

Okay—the Gospel about Jesus calling himself the “good shepherd” has sucked me in once again.  Probably because it got me thinking about Pope Francis’ oft-repeated challenge that “a shepherd must smell like his (her) “sheep.” 

What does it mean to “smell like your sheep” or to “lay down your life for your sheep”?  Certainly, it means we roll up our sleeves and get into the “stuff” of each other’s lives. 

My husband Ron has had 4 major surgeries in the last 3 ½ years.  And I’ve tried to be a good strong patient caretaker that he needs (much to his chagrin sometimes!?).  I also have had moments of panic, vulnerability or exhaustion.  What has gotten me through those times is often just a quick call, visit or offer to help—a voice from a friend.  It’s at those times I understand much better Jesus saying “my sheep know my voice…”   

Isn’t it true that you and I are both sheep and shepherd in our daily lives?  We sometimes wander around, aching for a familiar kind voice to bring us back from our wanderings or troubles or anxieties.  We also are at a stage in our life that we are the ones who are called out of our comfort zone to make an effort to care for others, to sometimes lay down our lives or time, our energy, patience or reputation for family or friends or an important cause.

If we are truly alive, we have to get our hands dirty, being both vulnerable and strong in situations—it gets messy.  Like the hired hands in the Gospel, we are tempted to run away from the exhaustion or complications we experience in our life or someone else’s life or in our world.  Sometimes you and I are the ones who have to live the integrity of the 2nd reading (“we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed”) and be the shepherds for our loved ones, our world, our nation, our city, our church, even if  “what we shall be has not yet been revealed” or the direction is not totally clearly.  And “we do know that when it is revealed, we shall be like him…”  Be like Jesus, getting our hands dirty, our lives messy, breaking some conceptions, holding onto or letting go of some hopes and dreams.

Look at your own life.  Do you see yourself more as a shepherd or as a sheep?  When it comes to family? Friends? Work?   We can’t always be the one taking care of everyone in our family—sometimes we need to let someone take care of us even when we want to always be seen as strong.  Or we can’t always be the sheep, following friends or going along with others at work or always asking for help—sometimes we have to rally all our energy to do something or speak up, even when it’s inconvenient or scary.

No one is always sheep or always shepherd.  We depend on each other, sometimes to lead or buoy up, sometimes to get in step with each other or ride on each others’ coattails.

On this Vocation Sunday, we all have the vocation of being the Children of God—to care for and be cared for by each other.  We all have something to say and do with the one life we have that we are called to lay down for each other. 

How about you?  How about me? 

Whose voice will we follow or pay attention to? 

What will we give our lives or energy or voice to in our time?

Maybe you and I have to smell like or be like both a sheep and a shepherd.  It keeps us humble and keeps us strong…

It also keeps us grateful, knowing that God works in both our vulnerabilities and our strengths…

Nancy DeRycke
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