Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Journey of the Sheep




REMINISCING

In my youth our family would frequently visit some friends who lived on a large sheep ranch. Frequently we would venture out on the ranch and visit with the herders who were Basque and Mexican. These men would shepherd the sheep up into the hills as the animals foraged for food the recently sprouted grass from the winter and spring rains. When the grasslands had been grazed the sheep were then transported up to central Oregon where the sheep would then graze for the summer.
During this time I was always amazed that these men were able to keep track of the sheep as they foraged in the wooded areas of Oregon, rarely losing a lamb. Only once in a while would a wolf actually kill one of the herd. The men themselves were rugged living on their own with their sheepdogs in their small trailers, moving every so often as to find a new grazing area.  The sheep seemed ever so docile following the commands of the herder and bark of the dogs. If one began to venture off the herder would send his dog to bring it back.

Today's gospel passage brought back those memories. The shepherds were ever so aware when one of sheep began wandering off much like Jesus who is constantly watching us and through the Holy Spirit working in others brings us back. Even though they were hired hands they became responsible for the flock they herded with such diligent care. They made sure the sheep were guided to pasturelands that were verdant and water supply was near. When they moved it was because the source of food had been depleted. 


Jesus also guides us in such a way as we move through life. When we have our fill we are gently guided to move on whether it be in relationships, work, activities and even in spiritual life. We are given what we need. We are fed the spiritual food of the Mass. We move with the herd through life yet we each take different steps much like the each individual sheep that maneuver the path to their destination.





TEMPTATIONS ABOUND

Yet there are those who wander off and are consumed by the wolves. Sometimes these wolves are dressed in sheep's clothing, luring us under false pretenses to get closer, to follow their lead. These as we know are the temptations of the world, the glamour, the pleasures, the fame. For some us we may have ventured down these roads and found temporary fulfillment, but sooner or later the Good Shepherd sought us out with his staff and brought us back or it may have been the shepherd's dogs that rounded us up or the consistent barking that awakened us up to come back. For those familiar with sheep, maybe the it is the bells that consistently ring reminding us where the flock is, or to warn us of danger, all which keeps us close to Christ.

FINAL THOUGHTS

During the spring the sheep were sent to the barn for shearing, taking off their thick coat, and leaving them rather exposed to the warming temperatures as the climate changed from spring to summer. It is much like us who through Lenten season attempt to take all the sin that weighs us down and be exposed as we are left to the world and yet completely dependent on the Jesus for guidance. Through Easter experience even though we might be raw and cold, we are warmed by the resurrected Christ. We become renewed and the process begins all over again as we process through the year, hopefully more aware the Good Shepherd as venture down the path with the flock.

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