Imitate the Good Shepherd
IF we truly want to be good Christians, we need to imitate Christ as the Good Shepherd. That is to say, that we have to learn to complicate our life to look for those who are lost. We just cannot be contented with taking care of those who are already somehow safe in the flock which, definitely, is already a complicated matter.
We have to complicate our life some more, willing to leave behind our comfort and convenience readily. Christ, in describing himself as the Good Shepherd, said that he was willing to lay down his life for his sheep. (cfr Jn 10,11-18) The immediate context of those words was in order to protect his sheep. But we can readily say also that his willingness to die for his sheep was meant also to look for the lost one.
We need to process this requirement of a good Christian as a good shepherd very slowly, and start to develop the proper attitude, skills and virtues to fulfil it. Definitely, we need to be strongly identified with Christ, first of all, and then go through the details of how to meet this requirement.
Do we know what is to be lost, especially in the context of today? It’s easy to identify those who openly consider themselves as atheists, agnostics, heretics, etc., as lost. But there are those who may appear to be very pious, very saintly but actually are also lost, even to a greater degree, because of their most deceptive inconsistency in their Christian life.
And there are those who are deeply trapped in some kind of addiction, whether it be in drugs, alcohol, sex, the internet, games, gambling, etc. These cases will require a lot of creative and patient interventions. Would we be willing to tackle this challenge?
To be a good shepherd would require that we should always be observing people and following or, even better, be promptly in the know with regard to events, trends, fashions, signs of the times.
We should sharpen our skills of discerning and assessing the moral quality of a person’s actuations or status, and of the different situations in life. We need to be ready with the appropriate criteria with which to judge these things. So you can just imagine the amount of prayer and study needed to attain this ideal.
If we truly care for people, we should arrive at that point where we get to know their strengths and weaknesses. Somehow we would be able to monitor the developments of their lives. We have to understand then that to be immersed in God is to be immersed also in the lives of people. We cannot live in a cocoon. As Pope Francis always reminds us, we need to reach out to the peripheries.
For sure, to be a good shepherd, we should be willing to get dirty, to be truly patient and hopeful in spite of the difficulties and the likely setbacks we will experience along the way.
And what makes things more exciting is that while we should be ready to look for the lost, we should also see to it that we don’t lose those who are already safe in the flock. So this means that we have to have the right priorities in organizing our day.
We cannot sacrifice our prayer life, our family life, our professional life, just to search for the lost. Or better said, we just have to know how to put all these competing goals together.
I suppose this is the reason why to be truly Christian, to be truly a saint, one would really need to be heroic, making extraordinary sacrifices when the need arises. It cannot be any other way. We need to know how to undertake great sacrifices.