Sunday Readings: Acts 2.14,36-41; 1 Peter 2.20-25; John 10.1-10
“I came that my sheep might have life and have it more abundantly.” – John 10.10
John’s gospel makes an extended allegory in chapter 10 about shepherds, sheep, and gates. The intimacy between shepherd and sheep suggests insight into the relationship between Jesus and believers. The sheep know the shepherd’s voice. shepherd knows the sheep and calls them by name. The shepherd and sheep walk together, live together, make life possible for each other.
The Greek verb poimano means to herd, to lead, to tend sheep.
To herd is the work of gathering and keeping sheep together.
To lead is the work of finding pasture and water and taking the sheep to places where they can thrive. A shepherd walks in front of a flock; the sheep imprint and follow.
To tend means staying alert, watching, paying constant attention to every sheep, to their condition and to threats. Anyone who has worked as a life guard at a community pool or beach knows the active attention that tending demands.
In his work to be a good shepherd, Pope Francis outlines four guides for walking with people in their spiritual lives and leading them to put their faith and the stirrings of the Holy Spirit into action:
1. Time is greater than space. To build and develop character or communities requires time and process. Time makes all the difference in growth, in building peace.
2. Unity is greater than conflict. “The Spirit can harmonize every diversity,” Pope Francis writes in his encyclical Laudato Si’ about healing Earth. We humans are all creatures of Earth. We can overcome our differences and come together to repair our common home. What we share offers greater potential than conflict for healing.
3. Realities are greater than ideas. In his exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis envisions Christian life and marriage unfolding as a process and divorced people needing ongoing support rather than being cut off from the Church community. People need time to open their hearts to grace.
4. The whole is greater than the part. This guide challenges us to see the world is both global and local. It calls us to broaden our horizons and see the greater good that will benefit us all, yet work on a small scale in our own neighborhood from both perspectives.
What kind of time have your gifts and the grace of the Spirit’s nudges needed in your life?