Today’s readings present us with two views of a shepherd.
Each summer I work a laboratory where sheep are put out to graze on the grounds. An electric fence is set-up around a portion of an unmown field. The sheep spend two or three weeks surrounded by conducting strips that encourage the sheep to remain within and the intruders to remain outside. After the vegetation is reduced, the fence removed and the sheep move on. The shepherd is seldom seen, but when he is the sheep all gather and eagerly follow his lead out of their confinement.
I think my experiences share some of what suggested in the reading from Isaiah. In this passage we are presented with a liberator. The Israelites have gone through a period of captivity. This Old Testament shepherd is bringing them home. This liberator reveals his dominance.
The shepherd in the reading from Matthew is very different. The New Testament shepherd is caring and compassionate. My reflection on this shepherd leads me to thoughts of forgiveness, while the previous shepherd brought forth images of vengeance.
I consider my role as shepherd in my family. My children see me sometimes as the bringer of order and other times as the one gently nudging them back into the fold. What I notice is they tend to remember the former better than the latter. When I consider my experiences with God, I realize that I too tend to recall the Old Testament moments more than the New Testament moments.
My prayer today focuses on the God taking us forward. I experience a mighty God (where I confess that sometimes I feel as I must pay the price for forgiveness as in the first reading) as well as the loving, freely forgiving God of the Gospel. I feel drawn to pray in thanksgiving for the rescue that we find in both of today’s readings.
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