The image of Jesus as the good Shepherd is a very endearing one. During his earthly life time, it was a comfortable and very familiar one. Even today this is true in many rural settings albeit becoming increasingly rarer. Even here at our ranch, it has been some years since one or other of the monks has been called upon to play that role. So while it is an icon that we can understand and to a limited degree appreciate, the image of Jesus as the good Shepherd is one that his flock, that is, his people, that is, his church, is increasingly unable to experience and adequately appreciate.
In this morning’s reading from the book of Revelation, John tells us of a vision he had of a great multitude which no one could count from every nation,race, people, and tongue. They were gathered in adoration, not before the good Shepherd but, on the contrary, before the Lamb. Strangely enough the Lamb, far from being a shepherd, is the most insignificant, the most helpless and therefore the most needy member of the flock. This, I suppose, is an illustration of Jesus’ teaching that the least among us will be the greatest.
But before we get further entangled in this plethora of icons and images, maybe we can transcend them and see what happens to the good Shepherd in our times. It was Jesus of Nazareth, the God- man, the word made flesh and dwelling among us, who identified with the good Shepherd. But after the resurrection, Jesus of Nazareth became, if you will, the cosmic Christ. Still a human being but one who has returned to his place at the right hand of the father, who counts the number of the stars and gives to each one its name, who is the image, the blueprint for creation, through whom all things were made and whom the darkness cannot extinguish. Truly this is Jesus whom we now call the Christ and whom we can retroactively, as it were, recognize as fully present in every atom of the created cosmos as it hurtles along its way from the Big Bang through the divinely guided universal journey towards its appointed goal in the fullness of Christ. We are indeed much more than the sheep of his flock, the people that he calls his own. Neither has it entered into our hearts, nor have our minds conceived what God has planned for those who love him. This is what the teachings of Jesus the Christ tell us, what our faith gives substance to within us and wither our hope leads us. For whoever believes that Jesus is Lord and who receives him as Savior has eternal life.
It is for this reason that we stand even now before God’s throne. And the one who sits on the throne will shelter us. And we will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike us. For the lamb of God will lead us to springs of life giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.
May you be happy,
May you be free,
May you be loving,
May you be loved.
Father William Meninger