July 19, 2015 — Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The image of the shepherd and His sheep is one of the most enduring ones within our Christian faith. Jesus uses this reference consistently throughout His teachings. The Lord, however, does more than tell us He is a shepherd. The idea of shepherds and shepherding occurs more than 200 times in the Bible. We hear of references to shepherds from Abel in Genesis to King David to the shepherds who came to worship Jesus the night He was born.
Sheep are among the most defenseless animals, and they are completely dependent upon the shepherd to feed them or lead them to food and water; to keep them from wandering aimlessly; and to protect them because they are so vulnerable. In today’s Gospel the Lord recognizes that the people are “sheep without a shepherd” and He begins to teach them.
He is feeding them with the word of God. The Hebrew word for “shepherding” can also be translated “feeding.” Jesus calls us to serve as shepherds for those around us, just as He shepherds us. It is this stewardship of our family, friends, co-workers, and others which allows us to show the love we are expected to demonstrate. Even our word “pastor” derives from the Latin word pastor which means, quite simply “shepherd.” An anonymous quote captures what our relationship to the Lord should be perfectly: “When you cannot sleep, do not count sheep; talk to the Shepherd.”