The compassion Christ feels for us human beings is expressed in the Matthew gospel: “He saw a large crowd, and he felt compassion for them because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9) Christ sees us; sees that we are scattered by life’s challenges in so many ways—outwardly and inwardly. We have not yet learned well enough how to guide ourselves to the waterside, to rest and true nourishment, nor how to protect ourselves from wolves. We are not yet sovereign in the pastoral realm, especially with ourselves. We have so much to learn.
It is perhaps uncomfortable though to think of ourselves as sheep; or of the community as a flock of sheep. It may also be awkward to think of the priest as a “Shepherd of Souls,” as it says in our Ordination service. But this is a transitional arrangement intended to facilitate coming into true communion with the one called the Good Shepherd.
We can think of the many references in the Bible to the one we call the Good Shepherd, especially the beautiful 23rd Psalm: The Lord is my Shepherd. Here is depicted a description of the one who enacts a radical act–he recognizes the divine power that is meant to arise within the human being. He comes to be a shepherd for us that there might awaken IN us the true shepherd, the capacity to lead ourselves to green pastures and still waters, and to lead ourselves along the path which is right for each one of us. He is the one who shall be with us as we walk through the valley of death’s dark shadow, on this side of the threshold or the other, and the one who, no matter what all is going on in our lives, amidst all the evil and before our enemies, prepares for us a table—a healing feast! At this table, bread is broken and shared, wine is blessed and given, true peace is planted in our souls. He gives to us the medicine that makes us whole, that makes it possible for us to become ourselves shepherds.
This Shepherd will not leave us because he has given himself to us until the end of time. This Shepherd laid down his own life for ours, and seeks to unite himself with us if we but recognize his voice. He goes looking for the one lost sheep out of a hundred. Every one of us is that important to the Good Shepherd. He calls us home! He comes to find us! Let us be found.