Shepherd of the FlockDan Doyle
What is the nature of God? What is he like? These are questions as old as humankind. They arise from a deep need in the human soul that desires to know the truth about things, even about those things that are transcendent and seemingly beyond our ken. The Scriptures give us the answers to these questions in a multitude of ways, always revealing the same God. Ezekiel answers these questions in the following way:
ʺFor thus says the Lord God: Look! I myself will search for my sheep and examine them. As a shepherd examines his flock while he himself is among his scattered sheep, so will I examine my sheep. I will deliver them from every place where they were scattered on the day of dark clouds. I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest—oracle of the Lord God. The lost I will search out, the strays iI will bring back, the injured I will bind up, and the sick I will heal.ʺ (Ezekiel 34: 11-12, 15-16)
Here is our God revealed to us through the most pastoral of images. He is like a shepherd who knows and cares for his flock, all of it. No matter where the individual sheep have gotten off to, he will not forget them. He will not cease to search for them. He will bring them back, bind up any wounds that they might have incurred in their ʺwanderings.ʺ He will heal those who have become sick from ʺeatingʺ whatever ʺforbidden fruitʺ they should not have eaten.
We are those sheep, of course. We are notorious for wandering off, for getting lost in the wilderness. We are often attacked by, or fall in with, the wolves of the world, or we barely escape their teeth, because we are awakened from our laziness, or our ignorance, just in time—by the grace of God, and the sudden sting of our consciences. Sometimes we become sick at heart, our souls weighted down by accumulation of a thousand tiny, ʺunnoticeableʺ sins. We become enfeebled and less able to run from the danger. We become more and more vulnerable to the error of rationalization. We get lost in the dark wood of excuses, or become paralyzed by fear.
Though we do these things, God never abandons us. Though we have gotten lost he never loses sight of us. Better yet, this Shepherd never stops loving us. His love is so great that he not only seeks us out, he heals us with the greatest gift of his love—his forgiveness.
Let Ezekiel’s words bring us back to the fold. Let our fidelity to God be renewed through our ever-deepening awareness of God’s infinite love for us. And let us give the Shepherd our thanks every day by being people of a living faith. Let our love and our fidelity to him be seen in all that we say and do. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.