February 4, 2023
by Edward Morse
Creighton University's School of Law
click here for photo and information about the writer

Saturday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 328

Hebrews 13:15-17, 20-21
Psalms 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
Mark 6:30-34

Praying Ordinary Time


Shepherds and shepherding provide common themes in today’s readings.

The reading from Hebrews references “the great shepherd of the sheep” whom God has raised from the dead.  Despite many great shepherds in human history, use of the definite article combined with the unique event of resurrection from the dead clearly invokes our Lord and no other.   (Curiously enough, a search for a “shepherd’s hall of fame” proved unavailing except for one associated with a college athletic team.  Apparently real shepherds just work in their fields without calling attention to themselves – shepherds on athletic fields are another story.)
Modern life limits our personal experiences with sheep, causing our mental images to be inferior to those of prior generations. Our children used to feed orphan lambs from a neighboring farm.  The lambs needed their milk “on demand,” as that would have been the duty of their mother ewes.  Our children had to sacrifice to meet those needs, sometimes rising at night to feed them, which was not so bad when the lambs were small enough to keep them in a cardboard box in their room instead of in the barn.  This nurturing care came naturally to our children, as mercy and empathy flowed generously toward these vulnerable creatures.  Their cuddly nature seemed almost irresistible, and they reciprocated with appreciation as best they could in their lamb state of being. 

Even adult humans tend to find some sympathy for lambs. One of our bottle lambs livened up an Easter program at my parents’ church for several years.  The audience showed great wonder toward this living example of wildness inside their urban church building.  They particularly loved it when the character playing Jesus would hoist the lamb on his shoulders.  (And for the curious, we fashioned a diaper for the lamb, just in case.)  Perhaps we all imagined ourselves in the place of that humble, little, lamb.  How delighted we would be to know that the Great Shepherd was lifting us up and finding joy in the process! 

Mark’s gospel confirms our Lord’s role as “the great shepherd.”  When Jesus saw the people streaming after him, lost and confused but seeking his help, we are told that he saw them through a shepherd’s eyes.  He responded with mercy toward them by choosing to teach them.

Our Lord’s response – to teach – seems anomalous.  During our brief shepherding days, it never occurred to any of us to try to teach the lambs anything.  Herein lies a point of tension in the shepherd/sheep analogy. The shepherd’s motivation to rescue, protect, and preserve the sheep might usefully reveal the heart of God toward his people, but we differ from sheep in some respects. From experience, we know that we are not always gratefully disposed toward the shepherd.  Sometimes we are not as easy to love as an innocent lamb.  But on the plus side, we are apparently teachable!  How will we respond to those lessons?

Lord, thank you for finding us lovable and showing mercy to us, even when we respond ungratefully.  Sometimes we need assurance that you are near, that our cries of “baa” do not offend you, and that your love is never far away.  When we forget this, help us to remind one another.  Help us open our hearts and our ears to receive the teaching that you are sharing with us with humility and gratitude.  Thanks be to God.

Click on the link below to send an e-mail response
to the writer of this reflection.

Sharing this reflection with others by Email, on Facebook or Twitter:

Email this pageFacebookTwitter

Print Friendly

See all the Resources we offer on our Online Ministries Home Page

Daily Reflection Home

Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook