The English language uses the word herd mentality; it comes from the pastoral setting of tending the sheep. It means a mindless grouping/congregation of people very similar to our phenomenon of the so called HAKOT SYSTEM, where people are grouped together in a place not knowing why they are there in the first place, except that everybody is there. The basic disability of the sheep is its lack of vision, hence it is almost half blind. Therefore their security is in being together. Their sense of smell is their source of action. No other reason except vulnerability and survival instinct put them together.
Readings: Today the 16th Sunday in ordinary time, the responsorial psalm sums up the theme of our reflection. The first reading from Jeremiah speaks about the false shepherd who doesn’t care about the sheep; hence God will send a shepherd, who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear or tremble. Someone who will govern wisely and do what is right and just in the land. Mark’s gospel speaks about Jesus moved with pity for the people and saw the pastoral situation as being like “sheep without a shepherd.” And Jesus, despite their need for rest & nourishment, attended to their needs, teaching them many things. Shepherding is not an 8-5 job, but a 24/7 ministry. The need of the sheep is paramount more than the Shepherd’s. When the crowds seek Jesus at a time when Jesus is seeking privacy, there is no question that which need priority. It is the crowds. Tending the flock is not just a job to keep the groceries on the table; it is his reason for being, and for dying. It is a vocation given by the Father, which there can be no greater. The Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
For us to admit that we are sheep is to put our trust completely, unreservedly in Jesus, the Good Shepherd. The relationship between this kind of shepherd and his sheep is a power of connectedness, of empathy. The relationship between the Good Shepherd & his sheep intimate that it is an extension of the relationship between the Father and the Son. The Father’s omnipotence is the guarantee of Jesus’ promises; his promise of eternal life, that we shall not perish, that no one can take us out of his hands are promises to his flock that can be fulfilled by the Father. With him we shall not only “never perish”, not only protected from danger and harm, but will be led to eternal life, where we would not want anything, for God is the only necessity in our life.
1. Like sheep, we are almost half blind. We would not be able to see what lies beyond the horizon that awaits us. Neither can we see the dangers around us trying to exploit and mislead us. It is Jesus alone who can lead us to the eternal pasture. The grind of the daily life can lull us to contentment and we lose sight of the beyond. We can get so engrossed with daily cares and concerns that we are not able to see the marvelous future ahead of us.
2. Jesus is not only content in giving us the vision. Aside from the images of security of giving us the basic necessities, he leads us to the right paths, to mean all danger is averted. At the moment of greatest danger, God still provides, thus the Psalmist can say, “fear no evil.” God’s scepter/rod connotes royal authority hence his guidance and provision are reliable because God is sovereign. Jesus as Good Shepherd will put his life at risk in face of danger.
3. The caring and tending of the sheep includes knowing the sheep personally, each by name. An intimate relationship between Good Shepherd and the sheep binds them in an inexplicable way. The shepherd knows each one. Who is missing; who is sick; who has no appetite. There is no stranger in the clock. We are all known. None should feel she/he is unrecognized. But more than recognition, knowing means involvement in our lives.
In this age where many communities, neighbors are strangers to one another, whose neighbors scarcely know the name of those living next door and when many in fact seek anonymity, let us put away out isolation and alienation . Let us start hearing the voice of and follow the Good Shepherd that we may become one flock, where one knows and is known in the process.