In the Bible, the tense and dynamic narrative is sometimes interrupted by interesting and also funny animal stories. In the Old Testament, we have Balaam’s talking donkey and ravens that befriended and fed prophet Elijah, Tobit’s dog, Noah’s dove, Aaron’s staff that could transform into a live serpent. In the New Testament, things appear to get a little boring, so no talking donkeys here, but we have goats, pigs, fish, and lots of mentions of sheep and lamb. In fact, the imagery of sheep and shepherd is a central and recurring theme in the Gospels. We find this symbolism in this Sunday’s scripture reading in the parable of the Lost Sheep. We hear our Lord introducing this theme and likening us – the faithful – to the sheep and himself to the shepherd. So what is so special about the sheep and shepherd?
When we hear the word sheep, we probably picture a warm, fuzzy, innocent, and cute animal. And while this is true, it is also not the Biblical perspective. Sheep tend to wander off and get lost following green pastures. They will venture to the very edge of a dangerous cliff simply because a tiny patch of green was spotted and caught their attention. Their lives, salvation, survival and very existence totally and completely depend on a shepherd. Sheep know this instinctively. They know that when lost or in danger, their only hope is to cry and call the shepherd for help.
This is the essence and nature of the delicate and meaningful shepherd and sheep relationship that the Holy Bible continuously and vigorously highlights and invites us to reflect on. Whether we realize it or not, whether we are ready to accept, embrace and admit it or not, our lives, everything from a molecular level to our very survival, wholly and entirely depends on God. We get lost, we lose our way home, we venture into dangerous pathways and harmful situations. Overwhelmed by the high levels of anxiety and stress in our lives, we turn to pills, we turn to things that temporarily blanket the pain and sadness of our souls. Amid crisis and turmoil, we sometimes turn to, rely on and try every remedy and solution except for actually asking the Good Shepherd of our souls to help, guide and rescue our minds and lives. He is always there, ready to help, rush to save and guide us to safety and often, all we have to do is simply call his name and invite him into our lives and struggles.