This was going to be a sermon about how there are people out there who behave as if they didn’t need a shepherd,
Then it was going to be a sermon about how there are people here among us who carry on as if they didn’t need a shepherd,
But then I remembered: I too carry on as if I didn’t need a shepherd.
Of course, I believe that I need a shepherd; I teach that I need a shepherd;
But in my daily living I all too often carry on as if I only had myself to rely on, and as if I didn’t really need anyone else’s help anyway. I might complain that I don’t have more help, complain that God didn’t make me more talented than did, but I nonetheless carry on as if I was OK alone.
And then things somehow don’t go quite right, in fact, if I acknowledge it, things go wrong –and they go wrong because I have done wrong: I have behaved as if God was an optional extra in my life rather than the beginning, and end, and middle of it.
Fortunately, every time this happens, God is waiting. Waiting for me, and waiting for you.
As we just heard Him say, “I am the good shepherd, I know my own”.
He knows, not only that I fail to use His shepherding, but He knows exactly HOW I fail, He knows it better than I do.
I say this to illustrate the point that it is not only YOU who need a shepherd, but I do too.
We pray today, on Good Shepherd Sunday, for vocations to the priesthood, but it’s also important to pray for your shepherd, your local priest and priests elsewhere, because otherwise we don’t have much chance of doing good for our flocks.
And I need a shepherd in the same ways that you do, and I have the same means that you do: the means that Christ established in the Church by giving us the 7 Sacraments and giving us priests to minister them to us.
I need Holy Communion –I need Jesus to come to me in His full “physical reality”(Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei, n.46). Not just a bit of Jesus, not just His spirit, but He Himself. I need Him, and He comes.
I need confession –The Shepherd who knows I wander off, that I carry on as if I didn’t need Him, He’s waiting to forgive my pride, my impatience, my laziness –because a shepherd often has to goad his flock on! I need His forgiveness, and it comes.
I need shepherding in the others ways too: in being taught and being governed and cared for.
I need the pastoral governance that the Pope and Bishop offer me,
I need the teaching of Christ that can only come to me through the Church –in the Bible and official teaching.
-without these things, I think my life is OK, I think I don’t need a shepherd, but I do.
What we recall today, is not just that we NEED shepherding,
not just that we are sheep, and often errant sheep at that,
What we recall today, is that there is a GOOD Shepherd, THE Good Shepherd.
Who manifested His goodness by establishing shepherds in His Church for us,
Who manifested His goodness by giving us Himself in the Sacraments,
And most of all,
Who manifested His goodness by the fact that “the good shepherd is one who lays down His life for His sheep”.