Sunday, April 22, 2012

Are You a Dumb Sheep?

Our Lord has called us sheep. Is he just trying to tell us we are stupid? Well, that might be true for some of us, but this is not what our Lord meant.  The universal perception of sheep is that they are so stupid they will follow one another right off of a cliff to their own deaths if they are not stopped. This is true, but it's not because sheep are stupid.  There is a reason why sheep act with "group think."  From sheep101.info
Due to their strong flocking instinct and failure to act independently of one another, sheep have been universally branded "stupid." But sheep are not stupid. Their only protection from predators is to band together and follow the sheep in front of them. If a predator is threatening the flock, this is not the time to act independently.
Sheep have no way to protect themselves other than to band together. Therefore, they will follow one another even into apparent danger. Sheep need a shepherd to survive. 

Man's greatest enemy is Satan, who wants to destroy each and every one of us, and without anyone to defend us, Satan will accomplish his evil purpose. We, in our natural carnal state, are completely defenseless against his wickedness and evil.  Like sheep, we can sense there is something evil out to destroy us, but also like sheep, we have no natural defense against that evil.  We tend to band together because we feel that is our only defense, which in turn leads us to destruction.  But our Lord came to this earth as a man and died on the cross to become the Good Shepherd who will protect and save us from the evil one.

The Gospel for today in the Traditional Latin Mass is taken from John 10:11-16 in which Jesus tells us He is the Good Shepherd who will lay down his life to save His sheep.  
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep.

12 But the hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf snatcheth, and scattereth the sheep:

13 And the hireling fleeth, because he is a hireling: and he hath no care for the sheep.

14 I am the good shepherd, and I know mine, and mine know me.

15 As the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for my sheep.

16 And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
There is an excellent reading in the Traditional Breviary by St. Gregory the Pope in which he explains that this beautiful passage not only tells us how to recognize the Good Shepherd, but how to follow the example of Jesus and lead others to the true Way of Life.
Dearly beloved, ye have heard from the Holy Gospel what is at once your instruction, and our danger. For behold what Christ saith concerning goodness! He himself is good, not from any gift of nature bestowed upon him, but by the very essence of his being, and he saith : I am the Good Shepherd. And then he saith what is the character of his goodness, even of that goodness of his which we must strive to copy : The Good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. As he had foretold, even so did he ; what he had commanded, that he exemplified. The Good Shepherd gave his life for the sheep, and made his own body and his own blood to be our Sacramental Food, pasturing upon his own Flesh the sheep whom he had bought.

He, by despising death, hath shewn us how to do the like ; he hath set before us the mould wherein it behoveth us to be cast. Our first duty is, freely and tenderly to spend our outward things for his sheep, but lastly, if need be, to serve the same by our death also. From the light offering of the first, we go on to the stern offering of the last ; and, if we be ready to give our life for the sheep, why should we scruple to give our substance, seeing how much more is the life than meat?
And some there be which love the things of this world better than they love the sheep. All such as they no longer deserve to be called shepherds. For these are they of whom it is written : But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth. Such an one as this is not a shepherd but an hireling, which feedeth the Lord's sheep, not because he loveth their souls, but because he obtaineth earthly gain thereby. He that taketh upon himself a shepherd's place, but seeketh not gain of souls, that same is but an hireling ; such an one is ever ready for creature-comforts, he loveth his pre-eminence, he groweth sleek upon his income, and he liketh well to see men bow down to him.
This last paragraph is especially ominous, I think, for all bishops and priests who have been given a duty to protect the people of God.  How many are sacrificing the people of God because they want to just fit in with the rest of the world, they don't want anyone to think badly of them and so will not stand up for what is right?  We may not always be able to depend on humans for the protection we need, but we can always be sure that the Good Shepherd will never let us down. 

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