Sheep were very important to the people of Jesus’ time.
They provided clothing and food.
Every town had a flock of sheep which were cared for by local shepherds.
Jesus frequently used common experiences from everyday life to convey profound religious truths.
When he spoke about the relationship between sheep and shepherds the people who listened understood completely.
Once upon a time in my youth I took about 25 ruffians from the projects just outside of Rome to a small town called Bagnoregio it was a beautiful place out in the country.
Many of the kids were in middle school and had never been out of the asphalt jungle or city projects of Ostia Nuova where they grew up.
They were very poor.
To give you an idea how isolated they were, when we went into the city of Rome to catch the bus for Bagnoregio some of them discovered an escalator for the first time and a riot broke.
It was like going to Disney world for them.
Up and down Up and down running down the up and up the down… you know the drill.
The transit police were not amused and they tried to run after the kids and catch them needless to say they were not successful.
It was beautiful in Bagnoregio they played soccer all day on grass.
One day I decided to give them a little culture and take them to a larger town called Orvieto.
We were late as usual and as we walked down the road to get the bus they notice the bus was already there and started yelling l’auto l’auto l’auto running toward it yelling and screaming like normal kids from Rome do.
The only problem what that in between the bus and the kids in the middle of town were around 100 sheep being led by two young shepherd to pasture and a dog.
They were coming back from being shorn.
When the kids saw the bus and started running and yelling, the sheep could no longer hear the shepherds and became afraid.
They started to run into each other and to scatter all over the place.
Back then People in small towns kept their doors open in the summer heat.
The sheep ran into stores and houses
and because they were afraid they pooped all over.
What a mess. What mess What mess…
The people of the town came out and started yelling we literally all had to run for it and catch the bus or they would have done us in. There was you know what all over the place.
That night we got off the bus outside the town and tried to sneek back to the friary we were staying in.
When we got back the old friar who had welcomed us came into the room and was so upset he couldn’t speak.
All he could do is stand there and shake his hands.
Needless to say we snuck out of town and went home never to return.
Sometimes when we read the newspaper or listen to the news the world seems like a bunch of scattered sheep, frightened and leaving their mark all over the place.
When we like the sheep fail to hear the voice of our Shepherd,
when we fail to be guided and protected by the voice of our shepherd,
when something suddenly happens to us, a tragedy, an illness, a death, a challenge whatever,
it is so easy for our lives to become a mess like that street in Bagnoregio.
Chaos can come so quickly to our lives.
It can come quickly and without any warning.
Today’s Gospel reminds us that Jesus is our Shepherd and we are his sheep.
Some people might be offended at being compared to sheep.
In reality they are offended because they don’t realize we need God.
Yes, sheep are not really smart,
they can’t see well
they get lost easily.
But they know enough to follow the shepherd and trust the shepherd.
The question of the day is simple.
Do we do we know that we need to listen to the Good Shepherd in our lives?
Do we know how to even recognize his voice?
Do we ever take the time to listen to him?
Have we ever helped someone else listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd?
Without the voice of Jesus our shepherd,
it is so easy to make a mess of our lives and the lives of the people around us.
Without the voice of Jesus guiding us it is very possible to even mess up the lives of the very people we love the most.
In the Gospel today Jesus said simply.
“My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.”
Jesus knows us.
He knows what we need.
He know what challenges we face.
He knows what our temptation, our fears, our weaknesses.
He knows our sins.
He knows us and He knows us and He knows us.
And he loves us he loves us he loves us .
And if we are willing to be guided by Him
Jesus reminds us
“No one can take us out of His hands”
When we are one with the Shepherd
When we conform our lives to His.
Then we too can be one with God Himself.
Lest we get lost along the way of life.
Let us always be attentive to to the voice of our Good Shepherd.
He alone can guide us home.