Good Shepherds Wanted. Faith Required. Crooks Optional.

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“Child of God” isn’t a job for sissies. It comes with one of humanity’s most challenging job descriptions. John tells us about it in Sunday’s second reading from his first letter (1 Jn 3:1-2). The job entails introducing ourselves to a world that won’t recognize us:

“The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. … What we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

As the PERFECT Child of God, Jesus lived and authored the requirements for that job under a different descriptor: “Good Shepherd.” That job title makes it more relatable to task-oriented humans, but it can only be filled by people who follow Christ’s lead as God’s child.

Research the job description for a shepherd in this day and age and you’ll see it has evolved quite a bit since Christ detailed it for the gospel writers. Shepherding was his human heritage, after all, going back to King David. David’s eventual kingship was owed to his first job as a shepherd—the youngest of Jesse’s eight sons. He was a typical shepherd of that time. Many ancient shepherds took that job while being among the youngest sons of farming peasants who didn’t have much land. It was a good way to start a productive life, because shepherd boys couldn’t be of much use doing harder work.

In today’s world, a GOOD shepherd’s job not only comes with a meatier job description, but it fits well into the block diagrams of big ranching companies. The shepherd typically reports to the farm manager, who reports to the business manager, who reports to the CEO. Responsibilities can include:

Production, people management, pasture management & maintenance, AND stock health & wellbeing.

Appropriately enough, that LAST responsibility is listed FIRST in the shepherd’s job description Jesus wrote two-thousand years ago. He offers that job to us moderns via this Sunday’s gospel reading by telling us how it’s done—and NOT done:

“A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.” (Jn 10:11-18)

Good shepherds in Christ’s org chart reported directly to the CEO, and were equipped with the Boss’s most effective tool: Faith. That and a walking stick. No food, no sack, no money. Just the sustenance that comes from doing the job—which could require healing the sick or chasing off demons in wolf’s clothing. John tells us there were many of those.

Once his Master left this job to him, Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit, as Sunday’s first reading from Acts tells us (Acts 4:8-12). Peter’s acts before that proved that a good shepherd’s faith can start quite small. Peter and his apostolic partners once had to rely on their Master to finish an exorcism they started but flubbed because of their little faith, as Jesus told him. (Matthew 17:20)

“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

In Sunday’s first reading, a hotly faith-fired Peter boldly explains to his enemies—who’d have loved to do to him what they did to his Teacher—how he mastered the great faith of a good shepherd to heal a lost sheep:

“It was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed.”

As THE Good Shepherd, Jesus is often depicted with a shepherd’s crook—a long stick with a hook at one end to help save sheep from straying and to defend them from enemies. Like faith, it’s standard equipment for shepherds in training. Both can help you maintain balance on rocky ground. But wielding it is not a job for sissies.

–Tom Andel


    • Thanks Ron. I’ve come to believe that in our truest moments we’re just uncovering the gifts God gave us so we can spend a lifetime applying them for the benefit of others. Just as you have!

  1. I like your last comment that refers to training. In our personal job descriptions, we have but one objective and that is to obtain the crown of heaven. What else is there?

    How do we train for such a lofty goal? Follow Christ!
    How do we follow Christ? Be an active participant in the church he founded for us. Additional activities include reading the training manual he gave us. Oh, we also need to love others as we love ourselves!

    Simple, not easy!

    • Especially since worldly crowns are so thorny. I guess the best training comes from the doing. Loving others involves helping remove their thorns.

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