(John 10: 27-30) The image of the shepherd is one that is lost on most of us in North America. Unlike many cultures of the world, we are unfamiliar with the role of the shepherd and can’t relate to the intimate relationship between him and his flock. A shepherd knows his sheep – each and every one of them – and they likewise recognize and know his voice, trusting him implicitly. For a shepherd, the sheep certainly represent his livelihood, but his care for them is much more than that; it is akin to devotion. At night, he calls them into the sheepfold and then does something rather remarkable – he lies down across the opening of the enclosure to protect the sheep from thieves or predators. What a beautiful image of sacrificial love – one who is willing to literally place his life between his sheep and whatever seeks to harm them.
This is precisely why it is so fitting to speak of Jesus as our Good Shepherd. He not only calls us and gathers us in, but He lies in the gap to protect us from the evil that seeks to divide and destroy His precious flock. In fact, we have been given to Jesus as His inheritance from His Father, thus we have nothing to fear! Speaking of His flock, Jesus says, “…no one shall snatch them out of my hand” (Jn 10:28). With His Death and Resurrection, Christ severed any claim that Satan may have been able to make on us. We need only listen to the voice of our Shepherd, calling us to life with Him.
In light of these thoughts, we must also consider how God calls us – our specific vocation – especially as the Church proclaims this Sunday the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. The theme for this year is “Vocations as a sign of hope founded in faith.” What is this hope? It is precisely that God continues to call each of us to Himself. Whether that call is lived out in the religious life, the married life, or the single life, we are all called to love. What’s more, in that vocation, we are irreplaceable – no one else can do the job that God has in mind for us! Each of us represents a unique soul in a unique set of circumstances at a particular point in time. God doesn’t see us as the world does, nor does He judge our worth according to such arbitrary standards as beauty or intelligence or wealth. God sees us only as His children – His flock – and that alone is the source of our dignity and worth.
– Kelley Holy