John 10: 11-18
The image that Jesus uses of the Good Shepherd verses the hiring is one that is easy to picture. It is a beautiful image of how Jesus looks upon each of us. He is the good shepherd who cares for us, searches for us when lost, and protects us from harm. He is not a hired hand who works for pay and lacks a personal connection with the sheep. Jesus loves us and it is the total, pure and unconditional love that he gives us that is at times difficult to accept, for most love we experience or express is tainted with the struggles and imperfections we have with totally loving without conditions. Hopefully we are not at the level of the hired hands, but we struggle to accept and to give that perfect love of Jesus.
On one of our College Service trips the students and I stayed at the home of a young couple with several young children. The couple were a beautiful example of a holy family in how they related to one another, prayed together and obviously loved each other. One day the wife told our students of how it dawned on her what truly love is. She had a successful careers, and worked for a company that was very much into affirming their employees. Company memos regularly were sent out that included commending some employee for a job well done. She got use to these pats on the back for everything she did. She stopped working when they had their first child. This was a very dramatic shift for her, and she shared how on one day, with a two year old and a new born, she was trying to cook dinner for her husband and some guests.
The baby started fussing and wouldn’t stop crying, and the baby’s crying woke up the two year old from her nap and she was cranky and into a tantrum mode. She was busy giving both attention hoping to calm them down, as well as to keep her eye on dinner. Finally, things settled down, the two year old went about playing, the baby fell back to sleep, and the dinner was almost ready. She paused and thought to herself, “I just did a great job, where’s the pat on the back?, where’s someone to tell me what a great job I did? There was no one. As she thought about this it dawned on here that when she worked the affirmation was good, and was expected. As a wife and mother she wasn’t doing these things for affirmation, she was doing them out of love. When we do things out of love we aren’t looking for affirmation. It’s not about what we get out of it, but rather the love we have that moves us to give of ourselves.
A few weeks ago when we recalled the Passion of Jesus there were no words of affirmation to Jesus as he hung upon the cross. Now one was saying, “good job, Jesus,” No one was patting him on the back. The crowds were yelling’ “Crucify him,” and the soldiers were scourging and beating him. Jesus didn’t suffer for us so that he could be affirmed, he suffered and died for us because he loves us.
This is the Love we celebrate during the Easter Season. It is the Love of God that conquered sin and death and is freely given to us. It is the Love shown in the Good Shepherd. It’s the love we are called to make out own so as to serve God and one another. It is not like a hired hand waiting to be paid, but as the Good Shepherd, not seeking anything, but only loving.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Artwork: Philippe de Champaigne