Growing up as a cradle Catholic, I never thought more about just being a sheep following the strict rules and elaborate rituals of the Church. Maybe it was because my first memory were of priests garmented in black, and at mass they had their backs toward us. Also life then was a lot more ‘simple’. Being a sheep was quite alright.
This is the perfect flock. Blind obedience; every sheep following one shepherd. The problem for me was that I did not remain blind. I think most people don’t. As I grew from being a child into a youth and transforming into an adult, my eyes opened, self-awareness matured. With that I began to see every distraction around a sheep that can lead us astray. Following that voice of that shepherd becomes tougher as an adult.
It is quite convenient to blame this modern cyberspace world for every challenge to our faith life. Life was more ‘simple’ for me when I was growing. It was because I saw it through the eyes of a child; I was merely a lamb with no responsibilities. Our parents at that time had to navigate through poverty to provide for food, shelter and education without the amenities and conveniences we enjoy today. Faith life then would have been a challenge too.
We are tempted to remain blind to the challenges of our faith life while we open our eyes and embrace the challenges of the secular world. That grass always seem greener to pasture on. It is common to see many people rejecting the Church; sheep leaving the flock to try to fulfil their responsibilities elsewhere in a different belief system, to follow a “hired man” and not the shepherd. But we know, because we probably experienced it, that we will become the lost sheep.
There is no shame to becoming a lost sheep. It was because of an imperfect flock that the good shepherd came to lay down his life for his sheep. We always wander away from the flock not because we are sinners but because we are humans seeking opportunities to best fulfil our earthly responsibilities. It is natural. And the good shepherd knows this.
Experiences of being lost are invaluable in faith because it matures us. It transforms us from blind lambs into wise sheep. It tells us there is only one pasture, one shepherd. The meaning in life is found in how we fulfil our responsibilities. Responsibilities grow us. And we have responsibilities in our faith life.
We are called to be the voice of the shepherd. The good shepherd does not want us to remain blind. Our everyday actions are this voice that people around us will ‘hear’. We have to use our actions to lead others back into the flock or at least to remain in it. It is our responsibility to show them not to reject this pasture. Because of this, we are both sheep and shepherd.
“This is the stone rejected by you the builders that has proved to be the keystone”.
4th Sunday of Easter