Following the Good Shepherd
As I sat to pen this reflection two bits of news came to my attention. Firstly, came the news that dozens of people were killed in an alleged toxic gas attack on the town of Douma in Syria. Days later, the US, UK and France counter-attacked by bombing three government sites in Syria, targeting chemical weapons facilities.
Then locally, a ruling High Court Justice deemed Trinidad and Tobago’s buggery laws unconstitutional, null and void, with the possibility that they might be changed or entirely struck off the law books of T&T.
No doubt these two bits of news items were the cause of much conversation, many expressing concern and distress as they perceived threats to their physical and moral/spiritual safety.
It is in this context of concern for our safety that we might wish to contemplate the readings for today.
In the first reading from the Book of Acts, a crippled man is restored to wholeness. Peter, speaking to the elders of Jerusalem said that the man was saved by the name of Jesus, whom they rejected and put to death by crucifixion. This same Jesus is proven to be the cornerstone upon which rests the salvation of the whole world. There is no salvation in anyone else!
Psalm 118 recommends that “it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.”
In today’s second reading, we are consoled even further with the reminder that God is our Father who lavishes love on us. As God’s children, we should not be surprised if we experience rejection and threats to our safety because Jesus had similar experiences. As God’s children, we can feel secure in the knowledge that God will take care of us.
Jesus gives us yet another image, in the Gospel, of where our salvation lies—that of the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. As the good shepherd Jesus is committed to the well-being of his sheep. Jesus is not like the shepherds, the hired hands who failed in their responsibilities and were condemned by the prophets (Ezek 34). He is the good shepherd who will not abandon His sheep to the wolves that threaten to scatter them but is committed to looking after them. The sheep can rest in the certainty that Jesus knows them as intimately as He knows the Father and as the Father knows Him.
As sheep whom the Father loves and for whose salvation Jesus suffered and died, what ought to be our response in the face of threats to our safety? We pray. We trust. We listen. We obey.
Where or to whom do you turn when you experience threats against your life, physically or spiritually? Pray for the grace to open your heart to the other sheep as Jesus has.
Lord, you are our refuge. We put our trust in you, believing that there is no other name by which we can be saved but in the name of Jesus. In you we have the victory over any threats to body, mind and spirit.
Lord, there are many wolves in our midst wanting to scatter us. These might be our own ignorance and lack of knowledge about you and about our faith. Help us to avail ourselves of opportunities to learn more about you and about our faith. Thank you for our earthly shepherds, Pope Francis and Archbishop Gordon. Continue to use them to deepen our understanding of the scriptures and the teachings of the Church. In humility may we listen to and obey your voice as you speak to us in these various ways.
Lord we struggle to accept those of your sheep that are not of our flock. We sometimes feel threatened by those who are different from us in sexual orientation, race, religion, ideology. But you died to save them, too. They are also your children whom you love lavishly! Give us generous hearts to desire that their safety in body, mind and spirit is not threatened even as we desire the same for ourselves.
In Jesus name we pray. Amen! Alleluia!
The Gospel Meditations for April are by Sr Gail Jagroop OP, a Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa.