REMINISCINGIn 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.