There can be no reasonable doubt that the Shepherd metaphor dates to Jesus himself, though different conclusions are drawn from it be the various evangelists. It was a favorite metaphor in much of early Christian art.
Perhaps it means less to us today because we do not live close to the fields and the flocks and think of sheep usually only when we're buying lamb chops or shivering at Dolly the cloned sheep.
The image in today's Gospel may be closest to the original though John's Story is often heavily overlaid with theological reflections. Jesus takes care of his own. We are his own, even if like sheep, we are often not very bright, not very quick, not very perceptive. The Story today says that it doesn't matter Jesus will still take care of us. None will snatch us out of his hand.
Fr. Greeley's Last Book:
Once upon a time two little kids and their father were out sailing on the lake in their small sail boat. The kids were scared because the wind was kind of picking up. Their daddy said; dont be scared, its still a light wind. Well head for shore if it gets any worse, but the weather person says therell be no problem. Ill take care of you. Of course they were all wearing life jackets, right? Well, it began to get a little dark and the wind became more brisk. The Daddy said, all right, crew were heading for shore.
Just then two crazy teenagers in one of those awful wave runners rammed the boat, cut it in half and went right. The daddy and the kids were in the water, clinging to the remains of the boat. The sky grew darker, the wind became fierce and it started to rain. Hang on to me said the Daddy and well swim to shore. The kids were afraid to swim, even to let go of their ruined boat. Youve got life jackets on he told them.
Dont be afraid, just hang on to me. The kids were really frightened but they hung on to their daddy.
You know what happened?
Sure you do, they made it to the beach just fine.
Their mother was waiting for them and she hugged and kissed them all. Nothing to be afraid of, kids, she said. You can always trust your daddy. Really she did say it!
Then they went looking for those crazy teenagers.
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1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want;
Catholics and the Struggle with Their Church
The survey of the archdiocese, which Father Greeley describes as "a very complicated place" demographically, asks some difficult questions, and finds some interesting truths.
In Memory of Father Andrew M. Greeley
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