May 8,2022, John 10:27-30
More than any other animal, sheep are mentioned over 500 times in the Bible. Today’s
gospel is no different. Once again Jesus describes his followers as sheep and he as the
shepherd. It got me thinking about sheep. Our common assumption is that sheep aren’t
that bright, and as I spiraled down a vortex of YouTube videos about sheep that
assumption seemed to be confirmed. Was Jesus insulting us or making fun of us
humans? Surprisingly, sheep are capable of forming friendships, mourning loss, and
recognizing individual human and sheep faces for years. Maybe Jesus isn’t making fun
My take is that Jesus uses sheep because of a trait and a word that is commonly
associated with sheep - docile. It’s a word we rarely use nowadays but the word is
defined as one who is ready to accept control or instruction. I can understand why we
don’t use this word very often. In today’s world we’re obsessed with looking strong and
powerful. Parents want their children to be leaders not followers. Leaders are rich and
in control. We would probably use weak as a synonym for docile and no one wants to
look weak. Weak people don’t win on the playground, in social hierarchy or elections,
weak folks don’t win period. But Jesus isn’t interested in winning on the world’s playing
field of fame, money, politics, and fancy job titles. He’s interested in winning souls. If
you’re like me, just the thought of being perceived as docile is uncomfortable. We might
be willing to be docile with God - nobody needs to know that part of our lives, but what
about in worldly life?
There is a verse in today’s gospel that reveals how being docile can result in strength.
Jesus says,”neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” When we have a docile
heart and spend time in prayer, whether that be centering prayer, the rosary, or having
a conversation with Jesus and then listening, our docile heart receives the ability to be
more like Christ: more patient, more understanding, compassionate and accepting. We
move in the world differently. We still have problems and conflicts, none of that
disappears, but how we resolve those problems and conflicts does. And that results in
us not being swayed by others to relinquish our docile heart because we see the
benefits and the underlying peace in our lives.
Jesus, the shepherd is present, ready to lead. Do we have a docile heart to follow?